Thankfully, humans don’t scale in social media

19 Jun
Perfect scale: One chocolate milkshake and one happy little kid.

Perfect scale: One chocolate milkshake and one happy little kid.

In my previous life as a news organization web editor, I took part in a race to publish, produce and engage faster than my competitors. The catch-phrase “for the reader” never really meant a single set of eyeballs. The pressure of scale: circulation numbers, prestige, and awards produced an all-out charge to produce revenue. Many brilliant, interesting things were bypassed in the rush.

How do you do it? How do you keep your foot on the accelerator but still make a difference with individuals?

You don’t.

Humans Don’t Scale

 Jeremiah Owyang’s post on Looking Behind the Curtains on the Social Media Stage: Humans Don’t Scale is refreshingly authentic and appreciated.

The element I’ve loved most about social media is the authenticity – its 1:1 scale. I guess it’s natural and predicable for some social media elements to begin to mass. But recognizing individuals – warts, typos, and all, as Jeremiah put it – is the delicious part of communicating. Hoard any numbers you want, but you will pay a price when you outsource your personality. Transparency and authenticity will always be the most valuable currency.

They measure what they can

Tom Collins produced a great post reply to Jeremiah:

Well, sure, that’s exactly the problem with those blogs that have become simply another mass broadcast outlet. They – and the traditional agency-model advertisers who place ads on them – don’t understand the potential of real word-of-mouth that exists when you focus on a comparatively small, but topic-oriented and close-knit network of people.

Engage with them. Become part of their network. And let the natural connectivity of your networks being linked to other networks take care of the “scale” problem.

I know that freaks out the corporate types who delude themselves into thinking that one page view equals all the other page views. That time-on-site equals attention or engagement (as opposed to an interrupting phone call or bathroom break). That the number of comments matters more than who commented, or what the three person exchange of ideas was about.

They measure what they can, because they can, and ignore what truly matters about the interactions.

So, bottom line, I still think you’re right to keep your interactions real, authentic, and personal (as Chris puts it) and both you and Forrester will get plenty of value out of it. 

I considered Chris Brogan’s hat tip to Dunbar’s Law (of about 150 people being the maximum for reasonable communication) when I received an urgent request from a UK Twitterer that needed “only 25 more followers to reach 6,000.”

Not tonight, but maybe I can help her in some other way than sharing my numerical value?

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