Social Media Connections: Show me your friends

Even if the comment "show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are" is not true in life, in social business, prospective clients and customers have little else to go on. As a social media consultant, the risk involved in growing social media or other online communities through wide-net tactics such as "follow me and I'll follow you too" makes me more than a bit nervous.  I'm not alone in this - Christine Erickson, Mashable (Erickson, 2012), in discussing Twitter, also advised on the potential risks of following everyone back.

In industries that serve a broad customer base - the arts, airlines, sports - the risk could simply be a largely unresponsive community, despite the appearance of exponential growth.  In more targeted industries - non-profits, specialty foods, publishing, environmental conservation - this tactic can do far more harm.

Risks Involved


First, and the most important factor, is how this affects your credibility. If your industry thrives on ethics and the right associations, this tactic could definitely get you ignored, or worse.  Vegan organizations unintentionally following those promoting animal testing could definitely hurt their credibility.

Brand Dilution

You are almost always just one of many options that your prospects can choose from.  A big following helps, but in the long-term, it will not be more valuable than a relevant one. Brand is not based on quantity, but quality. On social media, if your brand is unclear, followers become inactive or disappear.

Negative Press

With limited control of what followers say on social media, attracting the right community mitigates associated risks.  While some say "all press is good press", few talk about the cost of bad press - financial and otherwise.  A non-profit, for example, could lose funding for Liking/Following the wrong group.

Lessons Offline

The potential impact that building the wrong network (or community) could have on your business is not restricted to social media. Nike (Guthrie, 2012) and Starbucks (Business Wire via The Motley Fool, 2013) were among the few corporate enterprises that succeeded in turning their reputations around by changing their supply chains - in essence, their associations.  Not everyone would be so fortunate.

We don't need to learn the same lessons every time we change media.

You Decide

Community growth should be aligned with strategic goals.  Who are the members of your community going to be?  Why?  Be careful about the tactics you employ.  Whether it's on the basis of your industry, values or clientele needs, when building your online community, be mindful of what that says to your real customers about you.

Summary Infographic


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Guthrie, D. (2012, September 3). Building Sustainable and Ethical Supply Chains. Retrieved August 24, 2013, from

Business Wire via The Motley Fool. (2013, March 19). Starbucks Expands $70 Million Ethical Sourcing Program With New Global Agronomy Center. Retrieved August 24, 2013, from

Erickson, C. (2012, March 6). Should Small Businesses Follow Everyone Back on Twitter? Retrieved August 24, 2013, from

Crystal-Marie S

(2016-Aug-18) On paper, my career began in 2001, spans Successiory (2009), my MBA from the Schulich School of Business (2010), two countries and several industries, including business strategy, social media consulting, environmental and engineering consulting, higher education and more (see LinkedIn). 

In 2015, I was nominated for Canadian Association of Marketing Professionals (CAMP) Awards,Entrepreneur of the Year and became an bestseller on August 9th 2015. I spoke at 12 events in 2015 alone, including several GroYourBiz Advisory Boards, Bank of Montreal (paid), Iler Campbell’s Tools Conference and Toronto Public Libraries’ Small Business (sometimes paid) series. I think I love speaking!

On a personal note, I'm an MBA, entrepreneur, millennial, dancer, author and so much more yet, like you, I don't fit the stereotypes. After years of workaholism and the health and relationship losses that go with that lifestyle, I've stopped 'paying lip service' to terms like authenticity, self care and sustainability. My health scare pushed me into living them. Here's hoping I can inspire you to live and work better without learning the hard way. Welcome. Still curious? More here...

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