Friday, January 06, 2012

Small is beautiful

Many years ago, I read a book that made a great impression on me. It was by the economist E F Schumacher, and was called "Small is Beautiful". He set out a number of principles, including one called "appropriate technology". This phrase came back into my mind recently when I was "researching" (a phrase that sounds so much better than randomly noodling about on the web).

There's a common belief in social networks that "bigger is better", All of the networks make announcements when they reach milestone numbers like a million or ten million. But are bigger networks better for the people in them? Is a Twitter following of ten thousand people better than a thousand? As with all these things, it depends on what you want. If you're in the business of promoting something to huge numbers, in the knowledge that a small percentage of purchasers will make you rich, then big networks are great. If you like making loads of connections, and believe that randomness leads to serendipitous business, then connect away.

However, if you're in the relationship business, where you need to build a trusted connection over time, then a small, focused network may be a much better option. In my opinion, that's where the focus will be going for most users of social media this year. I believe people will be gathering in small private groups on Facebook and Linkedin, and cutting the number of people they follow on Twitter. Niche networks, perhaps with only a few hundred people in, will be seen as very valuable. For many of us, small really is beautiful.

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