There are only ten people critical to your business and social media can help you find them. That’s a pretty big claim. If it is true (and I think it is) there has to be a drawback. And here is the drawback. Those ten people are the people who are critical to your business right now. In a couple of minutes / hours/ days it is going to be another ten people and another ten after that. But … there will only ever be ten (or similar such relatively manageable number) at any given time.
This observation has a whole host of implications. Foremost amongst these is the conclusion that you will never be able to target those ten influential consumers. In fact you can forget the whole business of targeting and consumer segmentation. You will never know who these people are in advance. They will define themselves at a given moment in time by doing one of four things within the digital space.
- Saying something nice about your brand
- Saying something nasty about your brand
- Asking a question for which your brand is the answer
- Making a suggestion as to how to make your brand better
This is fundamental to an understanding that social media is about space and time, not about place (media, channels, websites) or even people.
The second conclusion is that you need to be on the ball in real-time. The four points above represent the social media spaces which you have to track. Once people pass into these spaces you can only harness the influence they have by dealing with them whilst they remain within this space (what you might call the engagement spotlight), which can last anything from 30 seconds to, at a stretch, a couple of days in some instances.
To borrow some language from traditional marketing speak, these four spaces or moments are the ultimate moments of ‘consumer truth’ in social media, probably even more important than the traditional moments of truth – encountering the product (seeing the ad), buying the product, using the product. Until now, brands have never been able to be there at these moments, they have only been able to scatter a generic, shadowy presence over them. But with social media you can be there. In fact, I would go so far as to say you must be there.
There probably is a third conclusion, but I can’t think of it right now – and in any case these are big enough ones to digest for the time being – largely because they un-stitch just about everything we have come to understand about consumer segmentation, targeting, channel planning, engagement, content, speed of response and scale.
This thought was prompted by a discussion I had with a man from Coca Cola after the presentation I gave at the IMC Awards a couple of weeks ago (see previous post). This very enthusiastic chap was keen to get my endorsement for a social media strategy he was developing which was all about focusing on much smaller groups of “influential consumers” rather than trying to reach all of his consumers. I told him that he was spot on, in the belief that social media is most effective in dealing with small numbers of people, but told him to take care in using this correct insight as a bridge to the possibly incorrect insight that these people could be considered to exist as a defined and enduring group which could be isolated and targeted. Influence in social media is not so much about who you are (which tends to remain fixed) but about what you are doing and what you have to say (which changes). I am not entirely sure he was comfortable with my answer and since it was an idea that came to me on-the-hoof as I was actually being pulled away to another engagement, I spent some time re-visiting what I said to check it wasn’t total nonsense. And having thought about it I am pretty sure it isn’t.