Are You Shortcutting Your Community?

Today’s social media focused world is really cut up into two sides. One side is where much of the hard work, tough questions, and moving of needles reside. Those people who are looking to help further the industry, build strong communities, help innovate, and are genuine in their actions. While on the flip side, you have the people looking for shortcuts, the easy road to infamy and a legion of thousands that they probably don’t even know. The people who think it’s a numbers game.

But before we go on, take a quick look at this video of Seth Godin:

That 1-minute video sums up a lot on what people have mistaken in this hyper-connected online world. The need to increase the number of friends, followers, and fans you have. Even #FollowFriday, which started off as a great community-driven meme that allowed us to recommend and follow new and interesting folks on Twitter, has declined as there seems to be less and less relevance to the recommendations and has become a free-for-all to nominate/follow people, without the explanation as to why.

I know we’ve had similar talks before but what struck a chord with me was when Mashable reported that Facebook Fan Page URLs would be available to those with at least 100 fans. Since many pages hadn’t hit that number yet, Mashable decided to help out by letting the community post their Fan Pages so people can check them out and become ‘fans’ to help those pages get to that 100 fan mark. What I found disconcerting about this was the way people were building their communities, just to reach a superficial goal – a vanity URL. Are we helping people out? Perhaps. But not to their goal of building a thriving community page, instead, to reach a goal on the number of fans they have. I understand that people have a choice with which Fan Pages they join but 480+ links later, it’s become a link-whoring post more than anything.


Personally, I see nothing genuine in building your community by participating in a link-a-thon, which unfortunately furthers the assumption, that social media is about the numbers and is what drives success. Sorry, but it is and will always be about the relationships and subsequent conversations that go on with yourself and those community members. And what determines the success of your community is not the number of fans or followers you have, but the specific measurables you can pull from your communities, showing that it has made a difference for your customer service, business development, etc.

You’re not doing it for the punch line, you’re doing it cause the act of doing it is so beneficial.

Seth goes on to say that the superficial side of social networking is a waste of time – and he is completely right. Vanity URLs aren’t going to benefit you and neither are those fans that you obtained without putting in the hard work and dedication towards your community.

So, tell me this. What are you doing to activate and build your community? Are you focused on the tiny details of vanity URLs and increasing the number of people in your community at the snap of your finger? Or are you more intrigued to move that needle, shift communication upwards, where people not only benefit from the platform you’ve built, but find value with other members who are there to help you reach your goals?

16 comments On Are You Shortcutting Your Community?

  • Sonny,

    I don’t think you meant it as though vanity URLs are totally irrelevant, but you did say “superficial,” and I think vanity URLs are actually a good thing. It simplifies how people can find a person or business on facebook. Instead of telling someone to search for us on facebook, you say go to

    Now, how you get the 100 (isn’t it 25 now) fans you need to claim your URL is another story – I’m with you there. All these gain this many followers in this amount of time, increase your fans, your followers, your farm land – all that seems fake to me. Nothing wrong with letting people on twitter no you have a facebook page, etc., but don’t “buy” your fans. I prefer organic fans, ha.

  • @Michael – You’re right, I don’t think vanity URLs are completely irrelevant, they serve a purpose IMO, but not for what was driving people in this instance. You m ake a great point about organic fans and growing your community around true believers and evangelists for your site or product. Again, are people patient enough to let social media grow their online presence? I don’t think many are..

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  • Sonny, this is really a fabulous post. It’s so important that we remember to redress the balance occasionally between reach and depth of interaction. Marketers have had 40 years + of trying to quote big numbers at each other and clients so I anticipate it is going to take a long time for the pendulum to finally swing back the way of granular, blended metrics about quality of experience.

    And I love the point you make above in response to Michael’s comment – so true that people are in a rush to build a community. Trouble is that while you may be able to successfully engineer a community and optimise it to grow, whether it does or not is an incredibly complicated and unpredictable affair.

    Thanks again Sonny – really enjoyed reading the post and comments.

  • @Scott – You make a good point about *quality of experience*. The experience you create for your community, whether 50 or 500 fans, is what is going to help build your community, not only organically but with members who are there to bring value to the group and not just be another fly on the wall.

    Thanks for the great comment, Scott!

  • Great post, Sonny and I completely agree with you. The relationships you are building matter far more than ‘the numbers’ or perceived popularity. I actually wrote an article last week about how to use shortcuts to build a community quickly (with some rather important caveats!) – and even used the same image as you!

  • I absolutely love this post; I was sucked in by the Facebook Fan Page URLs. I set up a fan page for my wife’s firm. I spent some serious time in deciding what apps to use, if the wall should be open and so on. I then published the page and waited for the fans to roll in; more like a trickle, I did very little to announce the page because I was starting to have some ideas about community and how it is not about numbers. I am so glad you posted Seth’s video and your comments, thank you. I will pass the fan page to only people I feel will contribute and utilize the page, in other words use Social Media correctly


  • @Martin – Freaky coincidence! I swear I didn’t take your picture 😉

    @Andrew – It’s great to hear that you’re finding the information not only useful but applicable to a real-life strategy. Let me know how your Fan Page is doing in a few months. I’m sure it will be great!

  • Way to be thought provoking on hump day, Sonny. There is clearly a large number of people who are in it for marketing and me, me, me. It’s like the people who talk about building relationships but really don’t mean it. The payoff from authentic relationships is not immediate, but it can be really huge once it happens.None of us can predict what we will need from others in the future, or what we will be able to provide others in the future, or even tomorrow for that matter. Build your community around the future, not the present. Good post and comments.

  • I think the most unfortunate part of social media right now is that the majority of those using the tools really don’t understand what the medium is about — community. It’s amazing to me that we’re still having this discussion, but it’s so relevant because that wall of misunderstanding is still there.

    Somehow we have to get people to understand that altruism (relatively speaking, of course) is more beneficial than greed, and that it’s got that added benefit of feeling good, too. Maybe altruism is too idealistic; maybe we can start with getting folks out there to understand the concept of mutualistic symbiosis (I totally went for the science angle there, lol).

    Good post, sir!

  • Social media is not about how many eyeballs read your stuff, but who those eyeballs belong to. And, it is about helping people reach their goals as Seth said. It’s most certainly NOT a numbers game and all the old school marketers who haven’t a clue about the mindset of social media better get a grip.

    Of course, what disturbs and concerns me most is that the way they’re doing it and the values they’re bringing to it will become the norm. I shudder to think in those terms, but we’ve seen social media become less that it could/should be in other ways, pay-per-post for instance.

  • Sonny, I find myself in an unique situation regarding this issue. 95% of my view is with you – numbers don’t mean squat. In fact, on a personal and professional leve, I’ve begun to trim my followers and focus more on strategically adding those who will add value. No longer am I following the Seth Godin’s of the world simply because they “thought leaders.” Cetain thought leaders add value for me, like Dan Schawbel who’s a #’s guy, but I follow him because he does bring something great to the table. So I’m with you on this level.

    However, I consult for a small non-profit. We raise less than 150K a year right now, so we’re simply trying to get our name and message out. Since we’re focused on intial awareness, I’m more of a numbers guy with this organization. We’re fighting United Way and the bigger non-profits, so until we have a signicant following, we’re limited on what we can do. Am I going around adding everyone and anyone? No, but I less selective with those I connect with. Again, not spamming simple to have 1000 followers, but more open to non-traditional connections.

  • Appreciate everybody’s thoughts on this. Glad there are smart people leading the way for community management!

    @Kasey – There is definitely a fine line with the goals between getting a lot of followers and awareness to your non-profit’s mission, but to me, your head is in the right place. And though you may be less selective, you’re conscious of the people you’re trying to connect with and hopefully capturing their attention to your non-profit’s cause.

  • Twitter has become so diluted, I’ve been forced to protect my updates (hopefully temporarily). I get follower after follower that are “link whores” as you so vividly describe above. I’m at the point of only allowing new followers that show some content other than RT and news feeds. I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn for networking, not link-working. So, more often than not I hit ‘Decline’.

    All of these new trends to gather followers just validate why I protect my updates:
    -Tweeting long lists of people to follow when there is no connection to begin with, only doing so to gain a RT or a follow.
    -Auto-tweeting and auto-RT’ing posts just to keep the twitter profile appearance legit.
    -Creating a real Twitter account only to send DM’s about purchasing software for more followers.

    I had to change my name in my profile because of all the ‘Charity’ Twitter accounts were following me. I couldn’t keep up with or sort the notifications! For those people that are still using auto-follow and auto-DM’s (even thank you’s), please stop.

    Wow! I totally vented on your Blog Sonny! Maybe my experiences will help others. This was a great post! Thanks for sharing.

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