Social Media Numbers and Your Big Basket of Rotten

why you're doing it wrong

Allow me to tell you a story:

Two women won a contest where they got to go into a grocery store and fill their carts with as many fruits and vegetables as possible in 10 minutes. When the buzzer sounded and the curtain was pulled, the two women gasped as they noticed much of the fruits and vegetables were rotting.

Woman A took off with her cart, grabbing loads of fruits and vegetables and throwing them in her cart as she ran the width of the produce aisle. She grabbed brown bananas and rotting apples. She grabbed an arm full of lettuce that had that brown juice pooling in the bottom of the plastic. In her fervor, she did get some shiny red apples and some other really good fruit and vegetables, but she had no reason behind her choices. She just knew she had to fill her cart full because it was free!

Woman B had a different approach. She surveyed the area carefully. And then, she quickly moved to the closest fruit and vegetables where she carefully began to pick her way through the rotten items so that she could get to the good fruits and vegetables. She carefully placed pristine apples and just-right bananas and perfect salad greens in her cart. She took her time, walking through the area like she was out for a Sunday stroll, occasionally placing a perfect item in her cart that had caught her eye.

When the buzzer rang, the two women proceeded to the finish line. Woman A’s cart was overflowing. She had limp greens hanging over the edge of the cart and you could see bunches and bunches of shriveled carrots. There were rotten, smelly onions right beside her over-ripe tomatoes. She had mushy oranges with green mold. Her browning strawberries had unidentifiable white fuzz on the tips. But, this woman was proud. She filled her cart to overflowing and got all of this stuff free! (FREE!)

Woman B’s cart wasn’t even half full. However, every item in her cart was either in its prime to consume, or shortly coming into its prime. She had plump purple grapes and perfectly squishy avocados. She had strawberries so sweet that you swore they had sugar on them. Her asparagus gave a loud snap when you broke it in two. She didn’t have a lot, but what she did have was perfect. Usable. No waste.

Women A looked at Woman B’s cart with a smug smirk, judging her for her mistake. How could she miss filling her cart? More is always better! Woman A judged.

Woman B smiled and quietly kept to herself.

Who do you think got more use out of their bounty?

Why You’re Stuck with a Big Basket of Rotten

If you’re a brand, business or blogger who is chasing the numbers and can’t figure out why you’re not making any money and becoming more successful it’s because you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re a brand who will only support conferences with large numbers or blogs with a great deal of followers: you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re a blogger who thinks they can only be successful if they have a large number of Facebook page likes: you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re a business who works with consultants who buy you audiences: you’re doing it wrong.

Number of followers does not equate to success.

My Proof

Take a look at any of my business social pages or social media accounts. You won’t see millions of followers. There are a couple of accounts that have around 6,000 followers each, but the rest are significantly lower. In this day and age, even 6,000 is not a lot.  However, I regularly get contracts and make money from these followers.


My Secret (This Will Blow Your Mind)

My secret is that I’ve made it a point to create relationships that last. I have one client that I’ve worked with (still working with) since 2001. When an employee left for another company, she “brought me along” and I have two clients from one relationship (the old company and now the new company).

In 15 years of doing this, I’ve only had one client who was “moving in a different direction” and not renew a contract with me. And, that was after they had worked with me for two years.

That success level doesn’t come from my number of followers. It comes from creating relationships with people.


And? I turn clients down regularly because I don’t have enough time to fit them in. Not only that? I don’t do any paid advertising for my consulting, blogging, and freelance services. It’s all word of mouth.

So, how do I do it?

Here’s my secret: I don’t focus on numbers, I focus on relationships.

Seriously. That’s it.

Check this out:

The Facebook page for this blog has 143 followers. (Pitiful! Even laughable! I know!)

So, how the hell am I doing it because clearly number of followers does not equal success.

I’m doing it by creating real (not false or pretend) relationships with people. I’m getting to know them online. I’m going to conferences. I’m meeting people for lunch or coffee. I’m asking about their kids or their sick dog or their funny story about yoga pants or jokingly asking them to invite me over for dinner when they post those oh-so-yummy food pictures.

And it’s not fake.

I’m really interested in what these people are doing and creating relationships with them. And, even if they aren’t a potential client, I’ve had a great deal of work come out of referrals from people that I know that turned into paying clients just because I took the time to create a relationship and it turned into, “Hey, my brother in law was just talking about needing someone like you.”

Here’s Even More Proof

I watched a blogger get crucified online recently for asking to work with some businesses. One of the biggest complaints in the bloggosphere was that “She only has a little over 500 followers! How dare she offer to work with these businesses?!” And you know what I did while all those people were focusing on number of followers as a measure of success? I laughed. All the way to the bank, as a matter of fact. And, so did this blogger. After her oh-so-public flogging, I watched her close five (5!) brand new clients in one month. When was the last time you closed five new clients in one month?


Breaking It Down For You

It’s not working for you because you are holding a big basket of rotten. You have to sort through all of the bad fruit to find the one good grape. And? By the time you find it, it’s starting to go bad, too.

If you’re super hungry and the only thing you have is a big basket of rotten fruits and vegetables, it does you no good. You’re still going to be hungry.

If you haven’t guessed by now, your big basket of rotten is all of your followers and your need to grow, grow, grow meaningless numbers. You’re so worried about the numbers that you’re forgetting the most important thing–it’s not numbers that convert for you, it’s the relationships.

Look at it this way. Would you rather have 15,000 social media followers that you can’t possibly get to know and create relationships with, or would you rather have 150 social media followers who you can create personal relationships with and have them convert to paying clients/customers?

Stop viewing numbers as success and a badge of honor.

My Pitch

So why am I telling you all of this? You are probably expecting some sales “buy this from me” pitch now, aren’t you?Well, here’s my pitch:

I’m not selling anything. I just want you to stop doing it wrong so you can get on the right track, stop drinking the numbers Koolaid and, honestly, make my life easier with clients who think it’s all about the numbers.

Stop spending your days trying to grow followers instead of relationships. (And, for the love of all that is good, NEVER pay for followers, no matter if you’re a blogger, solo business owner, or big brand. It’s a waste of your money just to “look good.”)

Stop talking at people and start talking to people. That’s what’s going to make your blog and business grow.

So, what questions do you have for me? I’ve put it all out there, so there’s no reason to stop now. Fire away.


PS? I had to look through some nasty photos of rotten food to find the one I wanted. Ick. 

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  • Reply
    January 29, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    This is awesome!!
    thank you so much.

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Take 10
    February 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Such a great post. And so honest. NO ONE will ever give you an earnings number…like it will cause lightning to strike someone. And yes, I’ve been so curious about the money side. So thanks for openly sharing. But more importantly the numbers game is so yucky. I am with you though. If someone is not into what I’m doing, I’m not about to BRIBE them to follow my page to enter a contest, etc. That’s the side of being in the blogging world that drives me bonkers.

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Take 10
    February 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    And that photo is GROSS…

  • Reply
    Kim @ The Cookie Puzzle
    March 2, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Oh wow! Thank you so much for posting this. I actually read through this with tears in my eyes. I have been that blogger…I have become obsessed with numbers. Once I stopped doing that, success found ME. While I am not a hugely successful blogger by some measure, I am successful for ME. I have worked hard to develop relationships with readers, I use my voice on my blog, like it or leave it, I post what I want, as often as I want,and people are responding to it, more comments, more emails, people notice if a blogger is being real. SO…thank you for this post….I will take a few good apples over a cart full of rotten lettuce any day!

    • Reply
      Jacqueline Wilson
      March 2, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      I’m SO GLAD, Kim. Thank you for taking the time to leave this comment!

      I fight the “numbers” game EVERY BUSINESS DAY–with clients, with bloggers, with other business people. There’s a reason people aren’t seeing a a difference in their business/blog. STOP FOCUSING ON NUMBERS, PEOPLE! LOL

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