‘There are two types of people in social media: those who admit to wanting more followers, and those who are lying.’

– Guy Kawasaki1

Yes, despite my earlier advice that an influential few trumps an indifferent hoard, gaining lots and lots of followers does matter.

Most of us feel the need for popularity on some level, even if we won’t always admit it. While our motivation is often driven by ego or vanity, popularity is a key part of a powerful influence tool known as ‘social proof’. Social proof generates social credit for free.

But before you set a goal of becoming a twillionaire, remember that quality is still important. It’s also important to understand just how many followers you need to stand out from the crowd. The answer may surprise you.

Imagine you are sitting in a quiet bar with a couple friends. Of the 10 or so people in the room, no one is even close to being a millionaire. Then Bill Gates walks into the bar. Now that he’s in the room, everyone there, on average, is a millionaire. In fact, on average they’ve got about $500 million each. But if you looked at your own bank balance at that moment, you’d see that you are really, really below the average. But you’re not alone, the vast majority, about 90 per cent of the room, are below average.

This is exactly the case with the power-law distribution in social media. We have a short head of very popular people, and a long tail of niche players. To put into perspective where you truly stand, ...

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