The latest Harvard Business Review describes a new study from researchers at Babson College and Bentley University that attempts to put social media strategies into four distinct buckets, from ultra-measurable, small-scale experimentation to org-wide transformation.
What the article failed to do was resolve the dilemma set out in its opening paragraph, that of one global bank executive facing “a challenge for our times”:
It turns out that a customer who would normally qualify for the lowest level of service has an impressive 100,000 followers on Twitter. The bank isn’t doing much yet with social media and has no formula for adapting it to particular customers, but the executive still wondered whether the customer’s “influence” might merit special treatment.
One possible response could be heard at Wednesday’s New Media Age panel discussion at the Marketing Week Live! event, when Edelman’s Marshall Manson stated that “it’s not so much the number of followers, as who those followers are”.
Well, quite, but close examination of 100,000 individuals is rarely achievable. Shortcut 101 for assessing the “influence” of armies of followers would be… the number of followers those followers have, and then the number of followers’ followers’ followers, and so on; a PageRank for Twitter (but not TweetRank). Add to that all the other channels through which individuals can potentially exert “influence”, and by necessity the analysis becomes less human, and more mathematical. As we’ve written here before, the proof of such an approach is very much in the pudding.
Still, Wednesday’s panel made it clear just how far we’ve come. Five years ago, panellists would have been engaged in a “thou shalt blog becuase it’s easy and it’s cheap” mantra. This week, it was “no Facebook groups unless they’re capable of delivering clearly defined business objectives”, and even (Manson again) “social media isn’t always the answer. If you’ve 25 key stakeholders you might be better taking them out for dinner”.
Note that the “dinner” strategy doesn’t naturally fall into any of the Babson-Bentley buckets.