Whether you are a social networking newbie or a social media maven, one of the most important decisions you will make is "quantity vs. quality."

When it comes to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, how you decide to manage your network of contacts can have a profound influence on your business. For real estate professionals, is it best to have a huge network of friends and followers? Or is it better to focus on establishing a smaller, quality database?

Whether you are a social networking newbie or a social media maven, one of the most important decisions you will make is quantity vs. quality.

When it comes to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, how you decide to manage your network of contacts can have a profound influence on your business. For real estate professionals, is it best to have a huge network of friends and followers? Or is it better to focus on establishing a smaller, quality database?

Before the advent of social media, many real estate trainers suggested that you build a referral database of 200 contacts. The strategy was to constantly upgrade the quality of this database. Once you reached 200 people, every time you added someone you would drop whoever was the least likely to support your business by sending you a referral. The approach was to constantly upgrade the list for quality.

The exact opposite approach seems to be playing out on Facebook and Twitter. There are numerous Twitter applications that promise to provide you with thousands of followers in a very short time. As the folks at Keller Williams love to say, "The quality is in the quantity." This is supported by the research on the "wisdom of crowds." When you take the responses from a large group of people and average them, they are usually more accurate than most so-called experts.

On the other hand, managing any type of large database is challenging. Would it be better to focus on filling your database with the best possible people rather than saying "yes" to everything that comes along? Here are some key issues to address before you make the decision. Also, it’s important to note that you might want high quality on one platform and high quantity on other platforms.

1. What is your purpose in using this social media platform?
If you’re like most people, your purpose in using social media is vague. You may want to connect with friends or build your business. You understand the logistics, but your results will be hit or miss if you lack a plan. To build both quality and quantity into your social media experience, remember that others are there to engage in a conversation, not to receive marketing broadcasts about your latest real estate listing.

The strategy for success is "make a friend now, do a deal later." The basis for making friends has not changed — it’s about finding people who share your interests.

2. Your strategy will vary by social media platform
LinkedIn is best suited for gathering referrals and testimonials in a business context. It’s also useful for sharing business resources and getting questions answered by other professionals. It’s probably smart to stay focused on quality rather than quantity (although having a large number of quality people in your network is highly desirable.) …CONTINUED

While LinkedIn is more business-to-business, Facebook most resembles business casual. With the recent changes in Facebook, you can now address both quality and quantity. If you’re new to Facebook, use your profile page exclusively for "immediate family," i.e., your closest and most important connections. Funnel your business connections into either a Facebook group or a Facebook fan page.

Alternatively, if you already have a profile page on Facebook, it may be easier to move your immediate family and close friends to a private, password-protected group. In a group or fan page environment, you can discuss business without alienating family and friends. You can also use the Facebook market page to post your listings.

Many people have likened Twitter to a huge 24-7 cocktail party. Almost anything and everything goes. Most serious Twitter users seem to be going the quantity route. If you have a huge number of people that you are following, quality quickly becomes an issue. Hidden within the mountains of spam and junk tweets, there are valuable gems of wisdom.

Nevertheless, the more quantity you have, the more junk you have to dig through to find the gems. (If you’re interested in finding people who have interesting things to say about real estate, Stefan Swanepoel has compiled a list of 200 interesting and influential real estate people to follow on Twitter: http://is.gd/3qBKV and http://is.gd/3B5pw.)

3. The problem with quantity: when your friends or followers run amok
Suppose you have accepted a Facebook friend request from a family member or a close friend whose behaviors or posts make you uncomfortable. If you don’t want to "un-friend" the person who is creating havoc on your Facebook wall, there is a marvelous feature called "hide" that allows them to remain as a friend, but hides all their posts from your wall.

Quality is a huge issue on Twitter. If you automatically follow those who follow you, it’s wise to constantly monitor your followers. This will allow you to avoid having your Twitter feed cluttered with spammers and junk tweets. While you may elect to "un-follow" some people, in certain instances it’s smart to block the person entirely. Otherwise, you may be unpleasantly surprised by some of the pictures that pop up in a prime position among your followers.

The answer to the quality vs. quantity issue will vary based upon the social media platform that you are using and the purpose for which you are using it. The best approach is to experiment and monitor results. That’s the only way you can determine what will work best for you.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.

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