Today’s guest post is written by Brian Ahearn (no, that’s not his picture at left). Brian’s one of the most knowledgeable guys I know on the subject of influencing people (which is why he’s been a guest here before). Enjoy!
I conducted a workshop recently called Principles of Persuasion. During a break, one of the students said she’d had a conversation with her five-year-old son and expressed parental surprise over something he said. She told him she was going to a meeting about leadership at work. He told her they had talked about leadership at school and he knew what a leader was. He said leaders were people who had followers. Simple and to the point, his definition was right on. Out of the mouth of babes!
Let’s look at this leader/follower idea as it applies to the online world. If you’re on Twitter then you follow people and people follow you. In a sense, for those who follow you, you’re a leader. You might be a leader by virtue of your expertise in an area or simply because people find you interesting. But, by definition of our young friend, people have chosen to follow you and therefore you’re a leader.
When I first joined Twitter I was amazed that some people had tens of thousands of followers. As I was building my first few hundred it was hard to keep up with them and I wondered how people could do it with thousands of followers.
The longer I’ve been on Twitter and the more I learn from different sources, the less I see the need for tens of thousands followers. In fact, I contend that maybe smaller, relatively speaking, can be better.
Could smaller actually be better? I think so, under the right circumstances.
Just ask the Spartans! Remember the movie The 300, where 300 Spartan warriors held off a several hundred thousand Persians at the battle of Thermopylae? The Spartans positioned themselves strategically so it was always a fair fight because the Persians could not bring all their might to bear in the narrow passage at Thermopylae.
Speaking of 300, how about the biblical account of Gideon going to battle against the Midianites? And you thought Gideon was the guy who wrote the Bible you found in your nightstand at the hotel! Gideon actually was a warrior who started with 22,000 men but God eventually reduced that number down to 300. Nonetheless, Gideon and his little band of warriors defeated an army of 135,000! In case you’re not a math major those odds were 450-1 against Gideon’s army and they still won!
I know you’re not here for a military history lesson so now I’m going to bringing this full circle and get to the point. Too often we get enamored by numbers and sheer size, when in reality there can be a lot of waste with “big.”
Another negative consequence can be that relationships are too impersonal. I’ll bet many of you reading this work for small companies and prefer that because you can get to know people better. Small businesses can feel more like family and they remain the backbone of the American economy.
In the online world, some of your followers are wonderful and others… well, let’s just say, you wouldn’t miss them if they were no longer tracking your Tweets, seeing your Facebook posts or on your LinkedIn contact list.
Maybe you’d be better off with 300 people, or some other relatively small number, following you IF those people were truly advocates for you. I see several benefits coming from this approach:
– You’d probably accomplish more with the same effort or less.
– Managing fewer followers would be easier.
– You’d really get a chance to know your followers as people.
– In turn, you could become more of an advocate for your followers.
How does this concept of “smaller is better” translate offline? In my industry, insurance, quite often I’ve seen agencies that could make more money on the bottom line by representing fewer companies and having fewer clients.
That’s right; fewer customers could mean more money for the bottom line. This is possible because fewer clients who place more business with the agency coupled with the choice to not to represent companies that don’t pay rock bottom commissions would ultimately generate more profit even if overall sales were lower. Ultimately that means the agency gets by with fewer clients but services those customers better because they have more time to do so. Oh yes, and in the process they humanize those people, word spreads and they start growing for all the right reasons.
What do you think? Can you translate this to your online world? Your business? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this because I realize its counter to the way most people go about their business.
– Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CMCT is a Senior Sales Consultant with the State Auto Insurance Companies in Columbus, OH. He’s one of only two dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers in the world. Read more of his perspectives on his blog Influence PEOPLE.