You might have seen the periodic mass unfollow on Twitter. It typically comes from someone who built up a large network and wakes up one day drowning in noise—a stream of tweets from thousands of people they don’t know and never interact with. Not to mention a lot of Direct Message spam.

They have a network, but they no longer have a community.

To have a community, you have to have engagement. Noise, numbers, and retweets don’t count.

Dunbar’s theorem says that the human brain can only process a limited number of social relationships. While I don’t think Robin Dunbar was accounting for online social networks, the truth is that you can’t be best buddies with everyone.

You can’t scale you. But you can scale social.

Scaling social is about enabling other people to tell your story. It’s about letting go of the message and trusting that the end result will be okay.

Southwest Airlines scaled social when it agreed to do a reality TV show featuring its employees. Coca Cola scaled social when it let two fans run its Facebook page. Major League Baseball scaled social when it turned over its Twitter feed for a day to comedian Stephen Colbert. Zappos scales social every time it lets a customer service rep talk about baseball while selling shoes.

You can control your message. Speak only through corporate spokespersons. Repeat only what’s been vetted by PR or legal counsel. But consumers don’t want to talk to a logo.

What is your business doing to scale social?

Photo by puuikibeach (Flickr).