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The alluring dead end street of volume

The alluring dead end street of volume

We all know that quality trumps quantity in most facets of life, but yet the temptation to judge our sphere of influence and our contribution to personal and professional life by the number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends we have is strong.  For an individual this is misguided and somewhat immature, for a business however its implications are much greater; the dilution of clear, effective communication and the squandering of valuable marketing resource.

If you’ll indulge me a little Shakespeare, Macbeth would surely review too much company social media content as “a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  The worst indulgences of vanity publishing are too evident too often with self promoting unfocussed content blasted to as many users as possible.

Social media gives marketers the best opportunity they’ve ever had to engage in conversation with their customers; but instead of speaking with those who are listening, too many organisations continue to shout at those who aren’t.  The various online channels represent an opportunity for a series of direct individual engagements, not for a single one size fits all engagement.

As author Gary Vaynerchuk suggests, no–one ever expected a personal visit from the CEO of Pepsi on their birthday; it just wasn’t feasible.  But now, because the cost of the interaction has plummeted, large faceless organisations can send a personalised [ thank you / happy birthday / here’s a free gift / delete to suit ] by text or by Twitter at minimal cost.

The onus this puts on organisations is that they should view social media as a public customer service channel as much as a sales and marketing channel.  By being creative about content shared and what is given away for free you inspire your followers to attract more followers.

HP have been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently and as a result some very useful research published by Dr Bernardo Huberman, their Director of Social Computing, hasn’t enjoyed the profile it otherwise might have.  His research focuses on the nature of user influence on social media networks such as Twitter.

Huberman summarises “the correlation between popularity and influence is weaker than it might be expected. This is a reflection of the fact that for information to propagate in a network, individuals need to forward it to the other members, thus having to actively engage rather than passively read it and cease to act on it.”

That means that whilst a business or individual may have a large number of followers or friends, their influence is more a factor of their engagement with their networks rather than the raw number of followers / friends / retweets.  For information to propagate and “rise to the top” in a network individuals need to forward it to the other members, thus having to actively engage rather than passively read it and cease to act on it.

There is an enormous amount of passivity in social networks; genuine engagement inspires action, preaching instigates yet more indifference.

Is this a free to use social media platform and toolkit which I see before me,

The keyboard toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.

OK, but not before you’ve written a social media strategy driven not by the need for volume and control, but rather by the need for engagement and handing over the reins.  And that requires a new kind of creativity that’s not just about clever slogans and marketing messages, but is about delivering content which is believable, genuine and remarkable.  And which spurs your passive network of contacts to action.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth formed Fathom in 2011 and has been in the business of design performance for over two decades.

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