The other day I went to meet someone to talk to them about
supporting them in organizing an event here in Singapore. We’d spoken briefly about this on the phone
before and he seemed pleased at my offer to help.
Practically his first question to me when we met was,
however, ‘how many friends do you have on Facebook and how many followers on
Twitter?’ Clearly a good part of my
perceived worth in helping organize this event was how large my networks were –
and not my real world network or ‘sphere of influence’, but my virtual friends
and followers numbers. At least I was
able to give him an actual number which I don’t suppose I would have been able
to do had he asked me a more pertinent question about what my influencing power
was. (That's where the really interesting bit is I think) He seemed slightly disappointed
when I told him and then revealed that he had about twice as many people following
him on Twitter and considerably more friends on Facebook. It should also be noted I think that in both
worlds we are very small players when it comes to numbers of followers and
I should not have been that surprised at his question I
suppose. This guy – who is a friend of mine – had recently been
involved with an event in Singapore that had been a big success – certainly
in terms of the number of visitors. As a
friend of his on Facebook I had received a lot of emails on the run up to the event
giving me the latest information and news.
There was an event ‘group’ too of course. So I suppose if he wanted to adopt the same
social media ‘strategy’ in promoting this next event, then having an organizing
partner with lots of friends and followers would be a good starting point to a repeat
strategy. But isn’t this a tiny bit like
looking for a mailing list? I say ‘tiny
bit’ because clearly there are some big differences – I know or at least have
some sort of relationship with my virtual contacts whereas a mailing list may
be cobbled together in any which way.
It still irks me a little that I should be valued by
this criterion (at least in some part).
Needless to say the strategy would have involved me being asked to email
(within Facebook) all my friends but this is a bit like spamming isn’t it? And
it begs the bigger question of course – is social media just a numbers game?
I really really hope it isn’t. I’m aware that I might be kind of a bit naïve
and maybe, in some ways, romantic when it comes to what goes on with Twitter. My friend, whom I was having the meeting with,
sees social media simply (I think) as a marketing gig. Indeed – almost all (if not all) of his
tweets are links to web pages often promoting an event or promoting social media
as a marketing tool in itself. Hey ,
there’s nothing wrong with this and I think he knows that I think that, but I
have, shall we say, a ‘softer’ approach and I love Twitter because I get to,
for example, follow Stephen Fry, someone
who sees and uses Twitter from a
position a million miles away from my friend.
I can’t help be reminded of the ‘marketing at’ position and strategy adopted by some
companies in Second Life bombed. Isn’t seeing
a bunch of tweets from someone you follow that just point to websites that
advertise an event or advertise the marketing medium itself a bit too much like
getting direct text (SMS) messages?
I don’t know where Twitter will go when it gets monetized in
the future but if it simply becomes a place full of social media marketers then
I’ll probably bail – for me, whilst I am happy to see all sorts of people doing
and experimenting with all sorts of things, the magic remains seeing what
people like Stephen Fry are up to, having a laugh with Will Carling and being
part of topics and conversations with some really cool and imaginative people.