Sorry to disappoint you guys: SIZE does not always matter – at least not in the social web

I wanted to write a post about this topic for a while now as I was confronted many times with this question. And a friend of mine had a similar dicussion with one of her business partners recently. So she asked me: Does SIZE really matter? No, don`t worry, this was a professional question and I am referring to the social web and the fact that success is measured with quantitative aspects most of the time. At least when I talk to people who are not deeply involved it seems that they see a correlation between having a lot of fans on facebook and being “successful”. I hear things like: “Oh yes, this brand is really successful. They have a lot of facebook likes” OR “This TV commercial went viral. They reached millions of views on Youtube”. And the list goes on and on and on… But does size really matter that much?

Well, it depends… Let`s have a look at a facebook case today:

  • There was a client (CEO) who looked enviously at the amount of facebook Likes of his main competitor. Why do they have millions of fans and we are still so far behind? What he didn`t remember was that the other brand started engaging 2,5 years before his own company set up a presence on facebook and the competitor was still growing along with facebook itself.
  • The competitor invested thousands of dollars in Facebook ads everytime they ran a campaign or promotion which boosted their amount of fans to even higher levels. They bought new fans by promising nice prizes. Something his team didn`t want – they focussed on growing organically and getting the right people on board. So they saved his money and focussed on giving a good service, listening carefully and delivering to the needs of the community.
  • He was not aware of the fact that the competitor was serving the whole world with one page only – where they used “English” as the main language.
  • In contrast to the competitor his own team set up local pages for each of their biggest market where they used the local language, considered cultural differences as well as the respective market conditions. The local experts took care of the pages in their countries. So their fans were scattered on different pages which made it difficult to compare at a glance.
  • What he didn`t see was the “reality” behind those numbers. His team was actually doing a great job: Although their facebook community was still only 1/10th of the competitor`s page they had a 10 times higher interaction rate. Their interaction rate said that in average 10 times more people interacted with them. People liked their posts. People commented. People shared contents. People suggested the page to their friends, etc… At the end of the day they reached more people than their main competitor although they were tiny in terms of the number of fans alone.
  • Recently – when Facebook launched a new metric “how many people are talking about …”. Facebook defines it as follows: “You’ll now see a new public metric called People Talking About This underneath your fan count to show the number of people on Facebook who have engaged with your page in the last 7 days. ” When we looked at this new metric in comparison to the main competitors it showed that our client did quite a good job by reaching a higher number then their competition – including their main competitor with the giant fanbase.

This blog post is far from complete – if you want to look at the whole quality vs. quantity debate of the social web. We are still searching for the right metrics to combine old school hard facts and figures with new and more qualitative aspects of success in the social web. I have spoken about some potential new metrics in earlier interviews. However this little facebook case shows that we need to differentiate. We need to look at things with more attention to detail. Numbers alone do not make you successful. At least not – if you really care what people think of and expect from you.

Of course – you want to grow. Business is about growth and we are here to help you grow during a fast changing world with emerging social technologies which can help you re-connect with and better understand your customers who are are talking about you online using social media. But please focus on providing a great service first, improve the quality of your products, add real value to the community around your brand and thereby create a healthy foundation for your long term success. If it was just about size we would suggest to clients to book facebook ads and combine them with a little raffle. But it`s not about growing fast and having people on your page who are only around for the iPad – at least if your business is selling insurances and not tablet computers.

To be continued.

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box.

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  1. Posted October 11, 2011 at 14:00 | Permalink

    Interesting point of view, I believe in quality of online leads too, instead of quantity.

    You see people with 5000 friends on Facebook, they don’t have a limit to add more, and only the same 4-5 people interact with their posts. Then you see others with 800 friends and 1/3 of them engage continuously with the posts because they relate to what this person is posting and the value he/she is giving through their posts.

    • Posted October 11, 2011 at 14:42 | Permalink

      Pavlina, Thank you for your comment… It is really about quality. The problem is that we are living in a world which is dominated by numbers. Especially marketers were used to measure success in numbers only, but there is more to it than that. The new technologies allow us to connect with customers and prospects on a deeper level. We can listen carefully and understand their real needs. And people can satisfy their need of being part of something bigger than themselves. Brand communication was about target groups in the past, today we are talking about brand communities. And a brand is not controlled by the marketer alone. I am sure you will like the next post, too. It will be about the real value of a fan and the billionaire in jeans and t-shirt;)

  2. Posted October 12, 2011 at 08:51 | Permalink

    Maybe you will want to get a facebook button to your blog. I just marked down this site, but I must do this by hand. Just my suggestion.

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    DSL Vergleich

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  1. […] unlock more budgets next year which you`ll need to create more cool stuff. However, remember that size doesn`t always matter! I`d rather have a smaller and deeply engaged community of heavy fans who are  loyal customers […]

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