Social Strategy & Dunbar’s Number
Dunbar's number has been most popularized by Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, where it plays a central role in Gladwell's arguments about the dynamics of social groups which is where I became familiar with the concept… but of course I was always “aware”, because its human nature.
So, why blog about this? Well, it’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve witnessed both organisationally, socially and within the confines of “social networking” platforms and I guess I wanted to get my thoughts down on "paper” and illicit some thoughts and views from you guys.
Within organisations, as companies grow, especially from a small org to a mid-size org and structures within that organisation or a discrete operating business unit move up to the 150 mark, it is very clear that suddenly the cohesions and stickyness of the organisation (everyone knows everyone and what is the power behind great teams, departments and companies) suddenly breaks-down completely. Immediacy, flexibility and the ability to “just do it” to achieve positive business outcomes, just disappears and is replaced by process and governance to hold the “group together” and achieve the same positive ends, but it’s not the same, not by a long way!
So currently I have:
- Twitter – I follow 803 people & have 860 followers and appear on 22 lists
- Facebook – About 300 “friends”
- Physical Close Friends – Probably less than 20
So, my reality versus my virtual is drastically unbalanced, but that’s no bad thing, not to me anyway.
I kinda crave on-line attention, but off-grid and out the office I keep myself pretty much to myself…
Twitter List Experiment:
So, I’m at the time of writing creating a Twitter List of 140-odd people that I would have an unprompted conversation at any bar in any town of I saw them; the kinda people with whom I think I have a connection, add value to me or I work well with in whatever sense…
This list will grow and shrink like the tide and people will drift in and out like pebbles on the shore – but there will never be any more that 149 pebbles, but that’s no issue for you, the list is just another type of filter… not something to get hung up on… its all in my head, its all psychological ;-)
Gladwell also refers to Mark Granovetter’s theory of “The Strength of Weak Ties.” this is where Twitter’s power is for me, this is the massive groups of interesting, powerfuil, influencing people that missed the Dunbar List but I would never be without!
The Twitter platform seamlessly supports engagement between close friends, peers, work colleagues and loose ties and allows people, brands and organisations to float between these categories as is appropriate and required.
Go make a list, but don’t make it too long and don’t worry if I’m not on it… that’s my problem and my value proposition to you!