Screw Scale

One of the arguments against social media campaigns has been that they operate on too small a scale for most major advertisers. It is unrealistic to expect the number of eyeballs from an online campaign that you would get from a traditional mass media campaign, the thinking goes.

But is the number of "eyeballs" the correct measurement? Shouldn't we be concerning ourselves more with "engagement?"

For decades, we in marketing have had little choice but to subscribe to the paradigm of "media attrition." It goes something like this: "If we hit 1,000,000 people with the same message, we're bound to influence the behavior of 1%."

That means we spend money to deliver the same message to 1,000,000 folks with the expectation that we may actually get 10,000 of them to take action.

But is it possible to affect the behavior of the same 10,000 folks by starting with a far smaller number? Like, say 1,000? Or even 100?

Thanks to the Internet, social networking sites and other online tools and communities, the short answer is yes. The Internet turns the traditional notion of scale on its head. What it doesn't deliver in numbers, it delivers in influence.



The Internet is about whom, not about how many. You no longer have to intrude on 1,000,000 people to influence the behavior of 10,000. You can start with a much smaller number.

So whereas 1,000,000 used to equal 10,000, now 1,000 does. As long as they're the right 1,000.

And who, exactly, are these 1,000? They're your best customers -- the ones who already feel like you are part of their "personal brand." The ones Malcolm Gladwell would refer to as "sneezers."

They're not easy to find, and it may take some time, but if you identify them, and talk with them from the perspective of "what can I do for you?" rather than "here's what I want you to know," they'll react positively and stick with you.

Yes, nurturing a social media community takes a little more elbow grease than phoning in a media buy, but in the long run it's worth it. Those initial 1,000 souls will become the "medium" of your message moving forward to friends, family and Facebook. Through the "magic multiplier" of social media, that initial 1,000 will soon balloon to 10,000 or even 100,000.

Looking at it in this respect, social media can be as competitive in scale as mass media.

Influencing behavior via social media may not be as fast as through conventional media (although something like the Evian "Rollerskating Babies" proves that's not always the case). But you end up with customers who have chosen to engage with you on a much deeper level. They have opted in. They came to you because someone in their personal circle recommended you.

And if they have a good experience, you are "made" in Tony Soprano-speak, and won't have to compete for them on a transaction-by-transaction basis, as you'd likely have to do with a mass media campaign.

Just do the math.

5 comments about "Screw Scale ".
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  1. Monica Bower from TERiX Computer Service, September 15, 2009 at 8:54 a.m.

    Thought provoking and practical.

  2. Bill Wagner from Strongmail Systems, September 15, 2009 at 12:08 p.m.

    Spot on, and here's a real world case study from Mint.com to back this up. http://tr.im/yJHm

  3. Mickey Lonchar from Quisenberry, September 15, 2009 at 5:19 p.m.

    @bill, Nice case study. I'm curious, what was the duration of the campaign, from initial blast to First Circle conversion?


  4. Tom Barnes from mediathink, September 16, 2009 at 8:24 p.m.

    Thanks for the thoughtful piece Mickey. The old formula of reach times frequency still applies--it's just that frequency has eclipsed reach in terms of effective media planning. People need to see things dozens, perhaps hundreds of times before it registers. This is the reality of social media and fragmented audiences.

  5. Matthew Cronin from House of Kaizen, September 17, 2009 at 6:51 p.m.

    great perspective Mickey, thanks!

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