Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 29, 2009 2:27 PM

When It Comes To Online Social Networks, Maybe We Have It All Wrong

How many friends do you have? How many people are following you? How many people subscribe to your Blog? What about your Podcast?

There has been plenty of talk recently in both online and traditional print publications about "online social networking fatigue." On top of that, adotas recently reported in the news item, Social Network Churn, that people loose half of their "friends" in online social networks every seven years.

Some friend you turned out to be.

Maybe we have it all wrong (and I'm just as guilty as the next person). Why are we looking at how many people have joined Facebook overall? Why do we care about how many people are following us on Twitter? There are countless online discussions about the quantity over the quality of these platforms, and we all know that it's not realistic to have one person try to engage in any sort of meaningful way with 312,000 of their closest "friends."

Those metrics are what media companies use to buy traditional advertising.

And, we're all falling into the trap. The minute we take the traditional media models and apply them to any of these new digital platforms could well be the minute we see "fatigue" and "churn" set in and kill them. When was the last time a real friend (or valuable connection) called you up to say, "listen, I'm sorry it's not you, it's me... I'm just tired of being connected to you. So, instead of that I'm going to try to connect with someone else"? Granted, this happens in deeply personal relationships everyday, but we know that the main reason this happens is because one or both parties simply begun to loose interest. Marketers never want this to happen. If you're marketing a product and service and people start "breaking up" with you, something is terribly wrong.

Let's push beyond the traditional metrics.

We have plenty of people talking about engagement, attention, intention and time spent. All very interesting metrics, and all of them make most traditional media folks roll their eyes. They want something more. Something more scientific. And, that's the paradox. Five people that are very connected and engaged in one online community could well be a million times more valuable than the thousands of people who blipped through a TV spot with their PVR, but as along as traditional media can keep the major brands focused on eyeballs versus overall value, nothing will change.

Both parties screaming at one another won't help push things forward either.

It would be interesting to create a study group on the future of media with traditional media buyers and planners along with some of the people who are really seeing value in building relationships in the digital channels. If we can get those groups in a room and throw some senior brand marketers into the mix, something tells me we would see some great results, thoughts and action plans on how to move forward. The trick is to ensure that everyone can earn the money they need to keep growing their business.

It's no small feat. Anyone up for this kind of challenge and conversation?

By Mitch Joel


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    • impact from Innovation Leadership Network

      There’s an interesting post on the Six Pixels of Separation blog today about metrics for social media. Here’s the problem that is set up: Maybe we have it all wrong (and I’m just as guilty as the next person). Why are we looking at h...