Posted by: Marty Fahncke | December 17, 2008

Social media numbers: Odd and interesting – Part 1

Today I noticed something odd about my social media stats…which led me to notice something interesting about them as well.

Today, I’m posting the odd thing.  Tomorrow, I’ll post the interesting thing…

The odd thing about my social media stats:

I seem to be at a “ceiling” of around 500-600 connections across all my active social media platforms.   As of this date (12/17/08) I have the following number of connections on various social networks:

Facebook:      631
LinkedIn:       506
Twitter:          624

I’m a big believer in “Dunbar’s number” when it comes to organizations.  (From Wikipedia:  Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar’s number, but a commonly cited approximation is 150.)  <Click here for full definition

I was aware of the power of the number 150 years before I even knew it had a name and had been scientifically studied.  I just naturally came to understand the affect of Dunbar’s number by working with hundreds of companies over my 20+ years in business, and seeing the huge difference in the communication and effectiveness of a company with less than 150 employees  vs. one with 150 employees or more. 

Looking at my social media numbers, and thinking about Dunbar’s number has lead me to a few questions:

  1. Is my online social networking “ceiling” caused by some sort of affect like Dunbars number? 
  2. If so, why is the number around 600, and not 150? 
  3. Does technology allow for management of a larger network than the “offline” 150? 
  4. Is my social media ceiling naturally occurring from outside influence, or is this something I’ve subconsciously made happen? 
  5. What are the possible reasons all three of the networks I play on are so close in the number of connections? 

If you have any thoughts/answers to these questions, please feel free to chime in using the comments button!

Be sure to watch for part two tomorrow. 

PS – Yes, my total number of connections are pretty small compared to many people I know.  Some of my business associates have thousands and thousands of connections on each of these networks.   I’ve never been very aggressive about connecting with a lot of people.  I prefer my connections to happen organically, and with people I actually know, or that I find interesting.   Due to this, I will reject some connections if I find the person offensive, boring, or just plain stupid. 🙂

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Responses

  1. that’s interesting. it seems like there can’t be a cap on the total number of connections … as the marginal cost is basically zero.

    i think the Dunbar number represents a size cap for the “usefulness” of networks. go beyond 150 on a human network and new nodes probably remove core value. which begs the question: what is the point of accumulating 500 connections? and is there a certain point beyond which adding new “connections” decreases the real value of the network?

  2. @_caustic — Thanks for the comment.

    There are some caps in place on all networks, just to prevent fraud and spam, but the caps are in the thousands, not the hundreds.

    I agree on the “usefulness” aspect of organizations below Dunbar’s number.

    However, the way I primarily use social media (marketing, market research, crowd-sourcing, etc) there is a case to me made for “bigger is better” I just haven’t really gotten around to aggressively recruiting connections. If you read my “PS”, you’ll see that I probably won’t either.


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