1 Good Reason – Social Marketing

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The Social Media Won’t Scale Myth

October 20th, 2009 · No Comments

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) When you view this issue from the perspective of; 1) Only 1% of your customers will want to talk with you on a regular basis, and  2) you have your entire company to draw upon as a resource to respond.  Then there is no question of the ability for social media to scale to any size organization.  It only takes a little knowledge, trust in your employees, and a little imagination.

Last night I was at the Brand Hackers Meetup in New York City where they had a debate on the subject of who should be in control of social media between a group of PR Agencies and a group of Digital Advertising Agencies.  I’ve talked about my opinions on this subject here, and here, and here.

One of the statements from the audience which I’ve often heard was, “but social media doesn’t scale”.  The panel didn’t address this issue but I will here:

Social Media Scales

The reason people think it doesn’t is two fold; a lack of imagination, and a lack of understanding of the way that social media networks actually work.

#1 How social media networks actually work- the 90%-9%-1% rule.  In every social network of more than 100 people this rule holds true.

  • 90% of the members of any given social network are primarily lurkers.
  • 9% of the members will contribute occasionally from once a week to once a month.
  • 1% of the members will contribute +80% of the UGC on the network.

This formula holds true on every social network, the bigger the network the better.  When I was with Gannett our networks with nearly 500K members exhibited these patterns and my counterparts at other social networking companies also agreed that these figures were accurate.  This is often pointed out as a problem with social networks but is in reality simply they way happen to work.

So for the purposes of the “But it doesn’t scale” argument, you only need to deal with 1% of your audience at any one time.

#2 A lack of imagination- There are two aspects to this issue, third party agencies and internal marketing groups.  A third party (advertising or PR) agency is always minuscule when compared to their Fortune 500 clients, even less when viewing the consumer audience as a whole.  So the agency is very concerned that they don’t have the resources to cope with an activated communicating consumer marketplace seeking a dialog.  But here they are viewing the problem from the perspective of a third party servicing the brand.  It should be viewed from the direction of the consumer who is seeking to speak directly with the brand, not their agency.

Of course an “agency” doesn’t have the resources to respond directly to consumers, they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

The second group of people who are failing in the imagination to understand that they have the capability to deal with scaling in social media is the brand’s internal Marketing and PR teams.  For too long these teams have controlled the communications between the consumer and the brand thanks to the broadcast media.  Now they are confronted with the advent of bidirectional media and they fail see how they can control the messaging.  They merely have to think of their entire company as a platform to communicate with the consumer and they will realize that their job is now as much internal as it is external.  When they use their entire company to respond to their customers they will find success in social media.  However this takes trust in your employees to do the right thing, which I wrote about here.

If you can’t find a way to have your entire company respond to your customers, then you shouldn’t be in business in the first place.

Give me 1 Good Reason why you can’t make social media scale in your organization.

Posted via email from ckieff’s posterous

Photo credit: Uploaded on April 4, 2007
by Marshall Astor – Food Pornographer on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/lifeontheedge/446580835/

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