Everybody wants more fans and more followers. Don’t they?

Maybe not.

As social media matures, it seems that marketers are noticing the nuance between the naked land grab of racking up a big audience, and the concept of attracting a loyal, hyper-targeted audience. The first approach is just chrome on the bumper; the second is about having a powerful engine.

Rather than focus on “more more more,” why not focus on “better better better?” In today’s opt-in economy, having fans who are actively paying attention to you is far more important that the sheer number of Likes on your Facebook page. Creating an engaged community is a mighty engine.

It’s just like the real world – it’s better to have a few great friends than dozens and dozens of acquaintances. And ideally, you have both.

Sony Social Media Director Chad Kaszer is out to get both, but he told Contently that if he had to choose he’d choose what he calls “loyalists” – fans who are more attuned to what the company is saying, and more interested in having a conversation.

As you might expect, Sony has both – more than three million Facebook fans and a robust interactive community of people who are engaged with the brand.

It all begins with quality, share-worthy content. As Chris Street wrote last month, pushy sales efforts are not going to with you loyalists. It is far better to have a narrow-but-deep

That’s the way you build hardcore fans – people who can’t wait for your next post, tweet or message and who respond back. That is the way you build a conversation – by being interesting.

This is the essence of thought leadership – initiating that conversation, or moving it forward.