Social Media – Quality, not Quantity?

Got into an (online) debate with a guy in Australia, who runs a company called eNova Communications, providing PR/Media services for the health fitness and wellbeing industries – with the aim of assisting emerging brands in understanding and utilising the power of Social Media and Social Networks (combined with traditonal marketing) to build tribes. (I am paraphrasing.)

I gave him my usual spiel – social media: massive hype, limited reach, no control – and he responded by saying ‘it’s the quality, not the quantity…..the conversation, not just the medium.”

(This was after I’d pointed out that, in terms of users and reach, the following statistics speak for themselves – LinkedIn 12m users per calendar month, Plaxo 4m, Twitter 10m and Facebook with 75m registered users – of which I am one, but I’ve never used it.)

Which made me think – and I’ll throw it out there – what’s better (in terms of brand-building, reputation enhancement and sales promotion), is it a quality conversation with very few people, or quantity communication with millions?

Clearly, if your aims ARE brand, reputation and sales and you want to achieve against those aims, then quantity communication is the way forward. Quality conversation with the few – which is highly desirable and undoubtedly of value – is something you do in your spare time when you’re not (metaphorically speaking) shouting your message from the rooftops. Except, of course, in times of issue or crisis, when your quality conversation can become the keystone of your containment campaign. But if you keep your eye on the ball and do things by the book, then your times of issue and crisis should be few and far between. (Cross fingers and touch wood.)

The point here is – and it’s nicely illustrated by eNova’s ‘mission’ (‘build tribes’) – is that far too many people seem to believe that social media and social networks are/can/will/have replacing/replace/replaced all the other forms of marketing and communication that have gone before.

Who needs print ads and media relations when you’ve got a ‘tribe’. I honestly believe – and it scares the living sh*t out of me – that there are people out there who, in their mind’s eye, see their brand/organisation’s ‘tribe’ sweeping down from the hills, carrying all before them on a wave of social network, word-of-blog evangelism.

Hello! They won’t. ‘Tribes’ don’t exist – or rather they do, but they’re not created by commercial marketing. If they can be harnessed, it will always be but briefly, and they will only stand in line if the reward is compelling enough – and even then, you never know when they will turn and bite you – seemingly for no reason. This much is obvious.

Oh yes – one more thing. Now the word ‘tribe’ is out there in the blogosphere, recognised as a ‘marketing term’ – no social networketeer worth his or her salt will want to be part of one. Yes, my friends, in trying to harness the power of social media and social networks, those very same networks have helped destroy your chances of doing so.

It’s just SO Alanis Morissette – don’t you think?

2 thoughts on “Social Media – Quality, not Quantity?

  1. Social Media now has the ability to change the world, not just in marketing, but in brand equity. The value of personal branding will reach deeper into the realm of grapevine ideals than ever before.

  2. Hmm – thanks for this. I’ve read it five times and I find myself no closer to understanding what it means than I was when I read it first. One thing though – social media is not changing the world. The world is changing (constantly) and social media is a function of that change. Not the other way round.

    There’s a theory of infinte parallel universes and worlds. In one of those parallel universes, on one of those parallel worlds, where everything is exactly the same – except that politicians are honest and the internet doesn’t exist – people have created communities by meeting at other people’s houses every day, and discussing what they’ve been doing. They nail adverts for their meetings to telegraph poles and anyone can come along, and stay as long, or as briefly, as they want. Anyone’s free to start up their own group.

    The point is that social media is not new, it is not a product of how clever we have become, and it is not life or world-changing. It is simply an extension of what people (social creatures after all) have been doing in real time since time began. And the only brands and organisations that have successfully integrated themselves into this human interaction? Tupperware, Ann Summers and God.

    Go figure.

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