Time to confess


I think it only fair to be honest. I’m not 100% sure where social media fits within the comms process

There. I’ve said it.

I can see how it add a lot to a business, especially when it is part of the destination or encouraging core customers and conversations (amongst those who are keej to talk). Having worked in a media agency and developing digital media plans that aim to sell products (directly or indirectly), there is an old habit of looking for a degree of weakness in new platforms, channels and I can’t get my head round social media as a core channel.

I’m keen to find out how it can work, where it works, when it works and (back to out allocation of finite resource) how should it be prioritised over other investment decisions. Don’t get me wrong, I like the whole social, share, create, edit, involvement thing that is going on, I just want to understand more how and where it fits in.

My concerns are:

1. Can it scale?
Ultimately adertisers want to be able to find something that sells products and then do it again (ideally cheaper!!!). I worry that social media is pinned on a series of highly creative Eureka!! moments where it is up to a customer / consumer to both shape and pass it on. That feels a bit high risk. We must surely all remember the early 2000 years  when all clients wanted was viral ads and talked about the power of “Word of Mouth”. Problem was that not everyone passed on these ads and sales were down.

“Good news, bad news Ms Client. Bad news, we didn’t hit sales, good news we didn’t spend all the ad money”.

“Thats just bad news Mr Agency”

2. How much are we talking about crowds here?
We get very over excited by crowds online tending to call it media. “Social Media” – sharing, having conversations. Just remind me why that is a media channel? How come no-one gets excited when I ring up my sister and talk to her on the phone? (ref the media business models in the bin relating to phone conversations)

Haven’t we heard this before. We have coo-ed at sales people who quoted inter-galactic numbers relating to txt message volume and waited for the tsunami of mobile business to transpire …….

All I’m keen for is for a common sense debate on it. Not channel bashing (I’ll come on to why interruption is a good thing),over excitement or thinking that social media is the answer to our problems.

A good friend and ex colleague used to work on a big global sports brand (think Tiger !!). At the annual agency conference Agency L.A. stood up and explained.

“We identified a community who were looking to enage in an aspirational brand and wanted to be heard amongst their peer tribe, we developed digital arenas and opened the expressive channels to allow people to communicate and share with the brand – we now have a community of 10,000+ people” – Wow !!!!

Agency Warsaw then stood up.

“In Poland men watch TV, we put the brand on TV, we sold 50,000 shoes”.

… and I suppose that also works – time to dig around.


150 Monkeys



About a month ago I attended a conference down in Brighton, where there was a rather odd mix of people from across the industry, which had the effect of creating a very different and engaging event.

I met this one guy helped companies engage through social media. Within days of returning to London the pereson in question had blogged something about the event, pinged me a note asking me to comment and then asked to link on Linkedin, the network dream.

Weeks later I found myself on a project where I thought it could be a great opportunity for this company in question to come on board and emailed my new networked pal.(I didn’t mention that there was some potential work, merely suggested meeting to find out a bit more about how they worked) … nothing … I tried again … suggesting we perhaps have a quick chat on the phone … am still waiting.

What happened? Volume vs depth of relationship I was thinking. Perhaps this guy had connected with the other 120 delegates, perhaps it was just a case of collecting stickers for the book. Checking on his linked in contacts, I realised he was in the 500+ realm.

I think we have all fallen foul of getting over excited on the network front and over connecting – but how many people can we realistically have a relationship with? Social? Business? At what point does the network we have created and a contact list become the phone book?

A bit of digging turned up this concept of the dunbar number from anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who stated that 150 people was the limit to the size of network of people with whom we can have stable relationships with.

Cameron Marlow, the in-house sociologist at Facebook also showed that the average number of friends was around 120 but that the number of meaningful relatiosnhips was around 7-10 of those. Outside of the 120-150 you’re just white noise – a picture in the loft.

This point was made even clearer by David Wong’s brilliant Inside The Monkeysphere (worth reading if only for the very funny lift example).

I looked at my other contacts in the 500+ club and on a broad and unscientific basis they all seemed to be either people I didn’t know that well or the “God I’m busy” types – and I’m sure this is the face of the natural collector (please let me know how your 500+ linkedin friends look like).

So where does this leave me? Realising I was probably not inside this chap’s monkey sphere? Thinking who would be in my 150? Should I get to 500? (could I get to 500 ?!!) Being reminded very accutely about good business behaviour being the ability to allocate finite resource … and probably a mental note to self, “Beware of men bearing links”