Numbers Matter in Social Selling

I know it’s all PC and cool to say that numbers don’t matter. Number of fans, followers, readers of your blog — none of that matters. It’s all about just writing and sharing great content because that is the core of social media. [dramatic pause while I hug myself]

Personally, I disagree. I think it’s easy to say numbers don’t matter when you have 30,000 followers on Twitter and 10,000 fans on Facebook or an email list with over 100,000 readers. And it’s easier to fall prey to that thinking and not challenge it, poke at it and see if well maybe… it’s flawed somehow.

I think numbers do matter for two reasons.

First, Social Selling is so new that most of the folks hiring social media agencies and consultants really don’t understand the channel, the medium and most importantly, how to determine which social media expert is better than another. Enter numbers. If you tell me you’re a SocMe expert and you are following 1 person on Twitter and you have 34 followers (do you get the feeling I’m talking about someone in particular?) then you will be viewed by a client in one way. If the other social media expert you’re competing against for the contract has 5,000 followers on Twitter, a top ranked blog (by Google) and a Google search of the person’s name along with the phrase social media expert turns up lots of hits… well let’s guess who is getting that contract shall we!

Numbers serve as a proxy for people to make decisions about professional services they don’t understand. I mean, 5,000 people can’t be wrong… right? When folks are hiring for a service or knowledge offering they don’t understand(for instance — social media), they simply cannot make an informed decision because they don’t know enough. So they crowd-source if you will. They look at the most famous or most followed and figure, hey, that many folks simply cannot be wrong.That guy/gal must be the social media expert I need to hire. But be warned, these kinds of numbers can be easily gamed. So use them as a metric but not the bible.

Second, numbers give you reach. You may be the most brilliant marketing mind the world has ever known. But if only 5 of your drinking buddies are reading your stuff… I’m guessing the world just found itself another ditch digger. Sure, in the beginning we all start small, but eventually you simply must hit a critical mass of followers, believers or members of your tribe that value you, follow you and promote you — if you hope to be able to pay the mortgage and still have beer money left over.

Ok, so numbers do matter. But let me now talk out the other side of my mouth. Numbers aren’t the end game. If all you’re doing is driving your numbers and there is no content or thinking behind them, then yes, you could say that numbers don’t matter. BUT….

In any marketing campaign, advertising, direct, social or word-of-mouth, we want apostles. Jesus had twelve and that seemed to work for him. So while Godin fixates on the law of 10’s, I like the law of 12’ves. I’m looking for my 12 apostles. Peeps that think like I do. That revolt against that what I revolt against. And that will follow me in an effort to do nothing short of a complete and total redefinition of the entire sales & marketing industry. Sure I’ll take 12. But man, I’d rather have 1,200. Why? Not for ego or to say I have 1,200. No, because 1,200 committed souls could do some serious damage. They could shake up the the status quo. The could get 1,200 more thinking about a the new world order that is sales & marketing today. And maybe, those 1,200 and their 1,200 can help me change an industry I love so that before my kids graduate college sales & marketing will be a career they aspire to join. Now that would be progress. Currently I’m well behind, as they seem to be favoring singer, broadway actor and professional baseball player.

So while great content absolutely has a place in Social Media and Social Selling, and lack of it surely will lead to your downfall, don’t fool yourself. Numbers matter. Focus on growing your numbers.

Build your numbers. Be proud of your numbers. But leverage those numbers for good and not evil. Really, it’s ok.

That’s all I’m saying. What are you saying about all that?

photo credit: by Patrick Gage

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 25+ year veteran of the sales & marketing industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and showing companies how to Sell Greatly, and turn conversations into customers. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital sales & marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.


  1. How interesting that I was reading this post and agreed with all of your opinions. Now here’s the interesting bit – I had no idea this post was written in 2009 which in relative digital terms is ancient history.

    I find the information you presented here is as relevant today (2013) as it was back in 2009. I feel the mantra of ‘…don’t worry about the number’ has been turbo charged since the infamous Google Panda and Penguin updates.

    So while you correctly pointed out the futility of such rhetoric back then, your opinions are just as true today. Especially when you consider the exponential increase of businesses embracing blogging and social media.

    I have just posted an article that is based on this one and I was wondering if you have in your collection an updated version. It would be interesting to see how your opinions have changed over the last 4 years or if you have stood firm with this article. Here’s the link to my article: https://www.rebelmouse.com/BountyGoodReads/numbers_matter_in_social_media-257500458.html

    I hope I have done it justice and if you have any extra points, I would love to hear them.

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