The Social Network

With all the hype surrounding Facebook’s public offering, GM’s decision to stop Facebook advertising and the countless articles pointing out how abyssmal click through rates are – we tend to lose sight of the value Social Media provides for marketing. The folks at Pew Internet have provided us with this reminder. While the data may almost three months old, even the change-at-the-speed-of-light nature of the Internet can’t devalue these numbers. There’s a lot of interesting data in their study but one finding stuck out:

Facebook users can reach a mean number (average) of more than 150,000 other Facebook users through Facebook friends of friends. A typical or median user can reach over 31,000 people.

That is staggering. That means that every piece of content you post has the ability to be multiplied by 31,000! More importantly, that multiplication comes with a shred of credibility. If you are providing content that elicits any sort of emotional response – like, share, comment – from your fans you are tapping into their “preferred” network. You are receiving an actual endorsement from them. Brands spend millions of dollars hiring celebrities to hawk their wares – to limited success. (Seriously, are you buying anything endorsed by Kim Kardashian?) But, for the cost of some well crafted, meaningful content you could potentially get your message – or at least your name – in front of 31,000 “trusted” friends.

Look, I know this number represents a maximum in a perfect engagement world- but even if you could get a fraction of that number – what would that be worth to you, your business or your non-profit? Two things spring to mind.

First, if you are using Facebook ads take a serious look at sponsored stories. Yes, most people realize they are a plant and paid for but on some level, seeing something “endorsed” by a member of my network lends it a bit more credibility, if not visibility. Of course, in order to generate sponsored stories worth sharing you have to, well, create stories worth sharing.

Which brings me to the second thought: How’s your content doing? No one really knows how many page fans see a particular piece of content. Intuitively, we know that whatever we post at 9AM will not be seen by someone logging in after lunch. It makes sense that you need to post frequently – but with relevance. Writing compelling content is hard work. If you’re posting 15-20 times a week on your Facebook page you are not going to score 100 on the compello-meter every time. You just have to hit enough home runs to raise the expectation level of your audience. In baseball, a hitter is a resounding success if they fail 7 out of 10 times. In Social Media ball, you should strive to make one out of every three posts something worth mentioning. You can fill in with stuff that keeps your awareness high but if you’re not giving them something that will grab their attention in some way you will eventually lose them to the next shiny object.

Remember that people participate in Social Media because it is fun, it is a diversion from the routine – it is entertainment. Tapping into that emotion is the key to accessing their network. We already knew that Social Media is the driving engine behind virality – this just puts a quantifiable number on the possibilities.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist


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About Steve Allan

I am a Social Media specialist uniquely focused on the management, messaging and marketing of social media platforms for non-profits and small businesses.
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