Sunday, May 17, 2009

Credibility in Numbers

Britain Got Talent’s Susan Boyle belting out “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserable garners more than 50 million views on YouTube. Ashton Kutcher’s entourage of Twitter followers tops a million. And Burger King’s quirky “Whopper Sacrifice” promotion on Facebook leads to nearly 250 million people being defriended for a free burger.

When it comes to consumer applications of social media it’s apparent that success is typically judged based on the number of exposures. That’s because the need for brand reputation and awareness has long driven how consumer-oriented marketers allocate their resources.

Does the same hold true in a business-to-business environment where purchase decisions are made by a select few? Surprisingly, the answer is “yes,” however for reasons other than the value of broad market visibility.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we’ve found that attracting a balance of quantity and quality of readership is the formula for achieving measurable benchmarks in areas such as lead generation, enterprise sales support, search engine optimization (SEO) and executive visibility.

There are a couple of contributing factors at work here. For starters, a large, diverse and engaged readership confers credibility on the ideas, thoughts and views expressed via social media tactics.

For instance, the impact of a blog is typically evaluated based on its readership, number of comments and authority. A strong showing in these areas enhances how a highly placed, executive-level reader may view the quality of the blog and the expertise of its author.

Second, a sizeable and expanding community of followers and/or readers allows a company to create the perception of tremendous momentum for and interest in its solutions. Geoffrey Moore’s classic book “Crossing the Chasm” outlined the positive sales impact that occurs when a company creates a bandwagon effect, establishing its products as the de facto standard.

Strategic’s promotional approach when it comes to social media content is to caste a wide net through participation in broad-based online networks and social bookmark communities, while working closely with the client’s sales organization to laser-target on specific customers and prospects.

Quantity and quality of readers…that’s ultimately the result.


Paul Rabin said...

Hey, in a perfect world we'd like to have both quality and quantity. But since social media are very easy to quantify and very difficult to qualify (other than my blogger is better than yours), the answer is simple: The name of the social media game is quantity. Throw enough stuff at a wall and something will stick. Conversely, traditional media outreach has always been about quality, since few among us would prefer messages in the National Enquirer to say the New York Times, sarcastic comments about the latter notwithstanding.

Steve Andrews said...

Great question which highlights the greater social media vs mass media question. We've come from an ecosystem of mass communications, television, newspapers, magazines, etc to the Internet and finally to social media.

We now have this amazing communications channel where we can actually engage in dialogue one-to-one, and many to many with all points in between. Instead of focusing on what technology can bring to our communications we seem to be, and Twitter is perhaps the worst offender, rushing right back down the mass media road. For Twitter and arguably most other social media sites it has become more about numbers, how many friends or followers can I get instead of about what is the message and who should and am reaching with it.

Twitter and many other social media tools seem to be less about engaging in a meaningful dialogue and more about acquiring followers, which makes social media far closer to mass media than any real tool for engaging stakeholders.

I think it should be far more about the quality of the discussion and the value it brings to your target ecosystem verses how many people follow / view your content.

Dan Hutson said...

Good to hear others grappling with this. I started tweeting on communication issues just a couple of months ago and have amassed many Internet marketers who I consider a low-value audience (I know they're just trying to sell me their services).

However, I also realize that many look at number of followers as a sign of credibility. The trick is to strategically reach out to those you wish to serve and make sure they represent something of a critical mass among your followers. I'm less concerned about all the chaff when I've also got plenty of wheat in there. As you build the relationship through conversation, you'll know who your key followers are and focus greater attention on those dialogues.

Esther Steinfeld said...

Always choose quality before quantity. It is important not to use up all your social currency. Only post relevant, useful, and topical information.

The more quality posts you provide via Twitter and your blog, the more readers you'll get. If you continually post uninteresting tweets, or irrelevant/non-useful blog posts, readerships and followers will quickly dwindle.

Mark said...

Interesting post on your blog Marc. To me, it depends on the nature of the Twitterer or the blogger and what their respective goals are. If, for example, it's to drive traffic to a site that gives away vouchers (e.g. and the KFC promotion recently) or another tactic purely designed to garner huge numbers to acheive a defined goal, then quantity rules over quality. I suspect KFC does not give a hoot who it sells its "food" to....

On the other hand, of you are Twittering or blogging to establish yourself or your organization as a credible information source or authority on an industry or subject matter, then I would think that the quality of followers or readers would be more important over quantity. Of course, in the ideal world you'd have both....

It's comparable in some ways to media coverage.... Some PR agencies I would imagine include every piece of coverage from every web pick up of a press release - no matter how relative to the client the coverage source might seem, in order to deliver a thick wad of coverage. Others (correctly IMHO) adopt a more, targeted and selective approach, only including coverage from relevant media outlets. Less coverage, better quality coverage, and fewer trees used....