Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 13, 2009 2:49 PM

Your Personal Brand Is Not Scalable

How are you going to outsource or pass-on some of the conversations and opportunities that will come your way as more and more people follow, friend and connect to you?

The answer is simple: you can't. And, because you can't, it's time we all started to admit that we are going to let people down, and that this is going to cause a major rift in how people connect in online social networks, who they follow and how "real" the relationships really are. Seth Godin recently tackled this in a Blog post entitled, Dunbar's Number isn't just a number, it's the law. Some people loved his thoughts, others disagreed (welcome to the conversation!). His point:

"Dunbar postulated that the typical human being can only have 150 friends. One hundred fifty people in the tribe. After that, we just aren't cognitively organized to handle and track new people easily... Some people online are trying to flout Dunbar's number, to become connected and actual friends with tens of thousands of people at once. And guess what? It doesn't scale. You might be able to stretch to 200 or 400, but no, you can't effectively engage at a tribal level with a thousand people. You get the politician's glassy-eyed gaze or the celebrity's empty stare. And then the nature of the relationship is changed. I can tell when this happens. I'm guessing you can too."

Your Personal Brand is not scalable.

Here's a true story: recently there have been many interesting marketing/Social Media opportunities brought to my attention due to the launch of the book, Six Pixels of Separation. In this process, I have been privy to seeing how some of the people who have major online followings work. All of them (including me) struggle to maintain their online ties. In fact, in one instance during a marketing opportunity, one of the individuals with a major following came out and said, "unless I am being paid, I simply don't have the time to commit to this." In "normal" circumstances this is fine, but here's what's really happening: this individual got the fame, popularity and attention because of their community. Now, when that community asks for help, they simply don't have the bandwidth unless there is a dollar amount attached to it.

It's plain to see where this leading.

On the last episode of Media Hacks (which is also episode #176 of the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast), Julien Smith (co-author of Trust Agents) and I discussed the challenge that businesses have when building community. We both arrived at the same conclusion: you can't build a community when you need it. You have to be building a community long before you need it (so that it's there for you when you need it). That concept becomes even more complex for individuals because...

Community and relationships are not about transactions, they are about interactions. Interactions take time and there's only so much time in the day.

In the end, the number may not be 150 and it may not even be 1500, but real interactions between real human beings take time. So, unless you have a staff, team and crew - and it's known from the outset that your involvement will be limited - be very careful about how you build your online community and who you connect with. If it's just a game of numbers - much like many of the bigger corporations who engage in Social Media - you are going to quickly start to let people down. And those are the exact people who "put you there" in the first place.

Any ideas on how to make a Personal Brand more scalable?

By Mitch Joel