If you're going to do anything in Marketing, is it more important to focus on "how many?" people you put your message in front of or "who?" you put your message in front of?
You can see this as the classic "quantity over quality" debate or you can look at it as "big vs. small," however you slice it, it's hard to argue that brands can now get major results through many small (and sometimes minimal) acts. There are winning business cases (in fact, more than you may think) around every corner. A cause for celebration if you dabble in the Social Media space (we like to claim those small victories as our own).
But, Social Media alone will not save you.
While some small brands can do many small things that achieve incremental results, the bigger brands tend to be doing a whole lot more of the the little things while pushing their weight around if something clicks. One example of this would be the indie-turned Paramount Pictures scareflick, Paranormal Activity. Leveraging many of the Social Media platforms (from Twitter and YouTube to Eventful) the movie had an initial groundswell that enabled Paramount to kick marketing dollars into additional online spaces (and traditional mass media ones too) and slowly push it to become the blockbuster that it became.
It works for soda too.
Coca-Cola is one of the biggest brands on Facebook to no fault of their own. Their Facebook page managed to pull in well over a million followers almost overnight without their intervention. It was a consumer generated fan page that felt much more like a fan club for lovers of all things Coke instead of a corporate-driven initiative to cram Coke into every possible marketing corner.
How did they do it? Can anybody do it?
They didn't do it by acting small. It was done because there was a passionate few people who cared about those two brands. Those people cared enough to put their own reputations on the line and invested their own time (and money and effort) to help spread the good word. These brands were smart in terms of capitalizing on these evangelists. They empowered and rewarded them. They made these people feel special. When people feel special, they will do (almost) anything and everything to keep that feeling alive.
Brand still acts big because most people act small.
If Social Media has taught us anything, it's that people love these real interactions between real human beings. And, as those relationships grow, those who are interested can play, connect and contribute to the brands that matter most to them. That's no small feat. This week, Greg Verdino (one of the business associates of Joseph Jaffe over at Powered and a long-time friend of Six Pixels of Separation) is launching his debut business book, microMARKETING - Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small, by inviting Bloggers (like me) to review one chapter of his book. Chapter #2 is called, Thinking And Acting Small, and It features a much more in-depth look at how both Paranormal Activity and Coca-Cola managed to leverage many small things (and passionate people) to build their brands and audience. Much like the clever title of Seth Godin's excellent business book, Small Is The New Big (which was a compilation of his Blog posts), Verdino has done a fine job of dissecting how those little 140-character tweets and Facebook status updates can truly add up to something we have never seen by Marketing via traditional advertising channels.
Small is big.
The challenge of acting small is that you run the risk of becoming of wildly successful. While that may sound strange or anathema (read that previous sentence over again), consider this: you have to be ready for success and you have to be ready to scale. Coca-Cola and Paramount have the deep pockets and resources to turn a spark into a brushfire and that brushfire into an inferno. Doing many small things is a brilliant way to test your market and gauge the interest of your consumers (and how rabid they may become), but ask yourself this:
What if it really works? Can you scale? Can you convert it into something more than a passing fad in a stream of constant tweets?