Popularity vs. Trust in Social Media

Filed in Featured, MY BEST POSTS, Social Media by Matt McGee on September 30, 2010 10 Comments

I struggle sometimes to explain to clients that it doesn’t really matter how many Twitter followers you have, and that getting people to click a “Like” button on your Facebook page doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve suddenly nailed the “trust” thing.

It’s better to have a smaller following that’s more loyal than a huge following of people who don’t really care, I say. But I fear that sometimes those words don’t sink in, because we learn from a young age that bigger is better when it comes to numbers. More, more, more.

So I’m quite glad to see some survey data and a wonderful article that I can share with clients in the future to back up the idea that being popular (i.e., having lots of followers) doesn’t automatically mean you have influence and trust.

The first thing is a chart from a recent Vocus study on social media influencers. This question, about three hypothetical people and their “fans/friends/followers,” got what I’d call the “correct response” from 57% of the respondents.


To small business owners, I’d say this: It’s okay to only have 100 Twitter followers. In fact, it’s better to have 100 Twitter followers who love you and spread your name around to all their friends, than to have 1,000 followers who really don’t care one way or another about your company, products, or services. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of the 100.

How Do You Build a Strong Community of Followers?

For that, I’m going to send you elsewhere. Amber Naslund has written a wonderful blog post called 9 Ways To Build A Twitter Community With Substance. It’s both theoretical and practical, and I love this conclusion at the end:

Remember: Twitter is just the medium. These same principles apply across many things, online and off. It all – always – comes down to your honest intent to build a network of people to talk to, to learn from, to share with. ALL of this depends on your desire to use Twitter that way, and not just to amass a collection of people that you can pimp your junk to.

So please go read it.

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  1. Frank Strong says:

    Spot on Matt, thanks for the post. One other key finding worth pointing out is how do you get to that point? The survey said, the number one way to build influence is to post relevant content.

  2. Matt McGee says:

    Thank YOU, Frank — can’t argue with that as a successful tactic. 🙂

  3. Thank you for your insight, Matt.

    I believe I am in a tight net group of successful people by the way they think.

    We cultivate Big Picture Thinking. We think beyond, supernatural thinking, otherwise it is limited.

    We are engaged and focused and dedicated to removing mental cluter.We clairfy.We harness creative thinking.We are working outside the box.We imagine together.Dive deeper together.
    Everyday.Every tweet.

    We employ realistic thinking.Facts.Solid foundation of facts so we can think with clairty.

    I asked for help on this subject today. If you don’t have all the facts, we respond differently. Thank you.

    Your thinking drives your engine.

    Change Your Thinking…
    Change Your Life.

    Alex Gatscher

  4. Jim Goodwin says:

    A strong and dedicated group of followers starts with trust in your company. You have to earn that trust through all your actions.

    You have to have friendly, efficient, and responsive customer service, a straight forward and weasel free guarantee, and the ability to offer solutions rather than excuses.

    As Matt points out, true followers bring in other followers. Treat people right and they become true followers and, in our experience, life time customers.

  5. Ross says:

    This is also what I believed in. I don’t care how many followers I have so long that they are legit and loyal followers. Being able to establish a unique group of followers with relatively fewer members is more likely to give results in consonance with your goals that having thousands who are simply nominal followers.

  6. Joe L says:

    Great post Matt. With social media it’s hard to rely on someone. I think it is more of a trust thing even though many people don’t take it into account. If people trust your product or word then you are considered reliable. Just because you have a million friends does not mean you are connected with all of them, which will make it harder for your message to resonate with them.

  7. Erin Kipling says:

    True! The number game is good but it’s not what matters most. What matters is the reason behind the number of followers regardless of how many. Sometimes, one honest whisper is louder than a thousand yell.

  8. Brian says:

    Great article. A lot of our College Pro franchisees have a small local following on Twitter or Facebook, but they’re the ones who are most likely to share things via word of mouth. The connections are always stronger in smaller groups, and they’re the ones who are going to pass your messages on. If you engage, the numbers will take care of themselves.

    Can I borrow some of this for http://blog.collegepro.com? I’d certainly give you the credit.

  9. Jeff says:

    agree with your broad point and want to underscore that twitter (and facebook, etc) are just channels, channels that have a very particular kind of audience. trust is built in a particular way on those channels, as is reach (the two are not mutually exclusive). the trust issue didn’t just appear with the rise of social media — but social media certainly can accelerate building or destroying trust. still, it’s important to remember that trust is accrued through actions across ALL channels, online and off, and the repercussions of doing it well or poorly ricochet across channels.

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