For the last 12 months, I’ve been conducting an experiment in social media marketing on Facebook – which culminated in culling half of my contacts last week.

That might sound like a drastic move, particularly when social media engagement is supposed to be all about reaching the maximum number of people possible.

Social media marketing is not a numbers game, as my experiment highlighted.

facebookwhyAt the start of the year, my personal Facebook profile had more than 4,000 contacts. As of last week, I’d culled nearly 2,000.

But why – and what did the experiment highlight?

For the last 12 months, I’ve added all friend requests, added friends of friends, added contacts from any continent outside of the UK where I’m based, and generally increased the quantity without strategically monitoring the quality.

The result was that during the course of 2013, my Facebook News feed gradually filled up with more and more irrelevant content, more promoted posts which were irrelevant, more generic content which was irrelevant, more invites to join irrelevant Groups, more invites to attend irrelevant events, and a significant increase in wasted time. Clearly, quantity wasn’t working.

Having sat down and spent an entire day analysing and reviewing the useful content, interesting posts, contacts who didn’t spam, and the events and Groups which were worth considering, I culled half of my 4,000 Facebook contacts.

What happened? The main outcomes have been:

* Quality of Facebook News Feed has increased

* Quality of social engagement has increased

* Relevance of Facebook content has increased

* Quantity of traffic to my blog has increased

* Quality of overall traffic referred has increased

* Reach of Facebook posts overall has increased

It was an interesting, illuminating and useful experiment in social media marketing, and demonstrated effectively to me that playing the quantity over quality numbers game on Facebook – or any social media platform, for that matter – doesn’t work.

I discussed the merits of quality over quantity in this article more than 18 months ago – it clearly resonated, gaining more than 2,000 shares across various social media networks at the time.

I’ve always been an advocate of networking small and deep on social media: as in life, social media engagement works best when done in a committed, targeted and strategic way.

Social media isn’t just another broadcasting and advertising channel, as the Facebook marketing experiment demonstrated.

So, what was the main lesson from this experiment in social media marketing?

Numbers might look great, but it’s the quality of contacts that counts. Social media marketing works best when delivered with strategy and relevance.