Do You Know About Dunbar’s Number?How many friends do you have on Facebook?
How many connections do you have on LinkedIn?
To find out how many friends you have on Facebook, click on your profile in the top left and it’ll say how many friends you have in gray text next to the friend tab.
For LinkedIn, go to your profile and look in the right side bar. It’s under YOUR LINKEDIN NETWORK.
How many of those people do you have a close relationship with?
Probably a small fraction of that number.
According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, you’re only capable of having 100 to 230 stable social relationships… depending on the size of your brain. It’s a cognitive thing and it’s known as Dunbar’s number.
The original definition considered a stable social relationship as one where you know who the person is and how that person relates to every other person. In my mind, I think even that definition is too broad. Think about the number of people you’d spend time with if you randomly ran into them on the street. If you saw them waiting at the train station or saw them on the bus, would you sit next to them and chat? That’s a close relationship. A “stable social relationship.”
How does this apply to blogging and business?
Easily – everyone is too focused on big numbers.
“I have a hundred thousand email subscribers.”
“I get a million visitors a month.”
At it’s peak, Bargaineering had nearly a million unique visitors a month. A freaking million.
Do you know how many “regular” commenters there were? These folks are people whose names (well, their commenting monikers like freeby50, strebkr, and cubiclegeoff) I could recite off the top of my head. These are readers who I knew would comment at least once a week, often more. We’ve exchanged emails or chatted on instant messenger. There were probably around thirty who were not personal finance bloggers.
Thirty readers I was able to build a connection with out of the half million to a million folks who visited each month. That’s the reality of Dunbar’s number.
Those connections are what matter. Not the deluge of search traffic. Not the social media metrics and the Twitter followers. It’s one reader telling their friend about this great new site they found. This is what people are talking about when they say you need a tribe of a thousand true fans. A hundred is tough but a thousand will feed you for life.
Just to add a final plot twist, if you think Dunbar’s number applies to you as the blogger, it actually doesn’t. It really applies to your readers. Your challenge isn’t to make 100-230 friendships out of your readers, it’s to for you to become one of the 100 to 230 websites they build a connection with.
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