Social Media and Scale

I recently met with a client at a large, multi-channel retailer who spoke off-the-cuff about some social media reporting he’d received from another agency. Sure, he told us, it was great that they’d gathered 120,000+ fans on Facebook but that pales in comparison to the millions of unique visitors his flagship site gets in a day or the tens of thousands of new names and emails acquired through various channels. This is a guy who gets the value of social media and yet still felt…underwhelmed.

On the other hand, Jason Falls sparked an interesting conversation when he tweeted, “An unsolicited press release in my inbox is no different than an unsolicited flyer on my windshield. The sender made no effort to connect.” Finding an unsolicited and unexpected press release in his in-box made Falls feel like the sender had neither taken the time to reach out directly first to gauge interest nor had the sender positioned the information in a way that would be personally relevant to Falls. Doing one or both may have delivered a different result, but who knows for sure and doing so takes time.
It comes down to understanding the medium and the strengths and weaknesses presented. If social media is all about connections, can you establish meaningful connections with thousands of people or does the fact that you even try leave everyone feeling like a number in the mass?
It leaves marketers wondering what to do with Dunbar’s Number, which is a theory that says it’s essentially impossible to maintain meaningful relationships with more than 150 people. Our minds and time constraints simply can’t do more. So what then is a big brand to do?
The answer may be in understanding how networks naturally grow and then fracture into those 150 person fault lines and what are the micro-interests that drive those fractures. You can look to automotive fans as an example. There are:
  • Ford Fans>
  • Ford Trucks Fans>
  • Ford F150 Fans>
  • Ford F150 Special Edition Fans> 
  • Ford F150 Special Edition Harley Davidson Fans>
  • Ford F150 Harley Davidson After-market Accessory Fans…and so on. 

Identifying the micro-segments and the shared interests (and language they use) takes a lot of time and patience, even with the support of digital listening tools. Whoever said social media was free obviously never had much to show for it.

2 Responses to Social Media and Scale

  1. leg March 3, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    Ha! Was it intentional or subconscious that you chose the Ford "F150" series as an example, when discussing Dunbar's number (the limit of 150 people)?

  2. Derek Phillips March 3, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    I thought I was just being clever. Too cute by half?

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