Gary Vaynerchuk had a thought provoking post on his video blog this past week, asking how many brands we can truly maintain a “relationship” with through social networks. He used “Dunbar’s Number” (number of social connections we can keep, stated as about 150) as the basis for his question.
It struck me as an odd question, because the brand that does a truly phenomenal job in the social space is Wine Library dot com (via Wine Library and the Daily Grape (R.I.P.) ) – Gary’s company. This is because Gary is synonymous with the brand. Hundreds of thousands of people have had consistent personal contact with him.
For many brands, social networks provide an opportunity to interject traditional advertising campaigns (web 1.0) into social networks. Not only do most brands misunderstand and misuse social networks, but they believe that by posting content which generates comments that they are engaging their customers. If you think that’s effective engagement, check out the Facebook page of your favorite sports team and see if you think that those commenters have buying intent.
I had opportunity to meet hear a “social media consultant” talk at an event recently. He oozed confidence, counting down dozens of corporate clients that he had helped with their social campaigns. To hear him talk, it struck me that he discussed all of the right channels, and all of the right statistics, but his vision for social was lacking. The most successful social campaigns he cited were responding quickly to gripes on Twitter and engaging fans with kitchy gamification on Facebook. As I thought more about what made this guy an “expert,” it was the brands that he worked with. And it made sense to me. You see those brands are impressive in size and stature, but their social media campaigns are equally unimpressive in audience engagement and relationship building.
You see, when Gary started he didn’t have a big enough audience to sit on Twitter and wait for someone to gripe so that he could quickly respond. He took his passion for people and advanced Twitter search, and he proactively engaged an audience that grew to nearly a million. If you haven’t read his book Crush It!, you should because it is a roadmap to brand success in social. Here’s the Cliff’s notes version: cut the pretense and proactively show people that you care about them. Do it relentlessly.
A lot of corporations talk about fostering an entrepreneurial spirit, but in social it’s clear that brands don’t emulate entrepreneurs at all…. at least successful entrepreneurs. This fundamental misunderstanding of what social consumers want should cue every business that there is still HUGE opportunity in the social space.
And to Gary’s question, the goal of corporate social shouldn’t be to be included in a handful of a consumer’s preferred businesses, they should be striving to be a part of a person’s 150 social connections. Whether that is achieved is irrelevant, but it keeps goals and focus squarely on engagement. And engagement is why people participate in social communities.
The “like me on Facebook” mentality is tantamount to empty calorie consumption. You can eat cake, but there is nothing substantive to it. As tasty as cake may be from time to time, no one above the age of five wants to consume it exclusively or even regularly.
In the social space people may consume your empty calories on occasion, but will spend most of their time consuming things with substance.
Gary Vaynerchuk’s Video Blog
Robin Dunbar discusses the 150 person social threshold