10: Scaling Networks

Success at building a network requires you to develop people into advocates, who regularly communicate (rather than passive listeners who receive one message), and this requires a different approach, which the author means to explore in this chapter.

Scaling Networks

The task of reaching millions of people via social media is a daunting one: the body count is high, and the resources devoted to social media in most firms remains paltry.

However, networking has a significant advantage over audience-building in that each person you reach is a potential helper who will spread your message to others: you don't need to directly contact a million people, but directly contact 100, each of whom spread the message to 100, each of whom spread the message to 100 more ... and the job is done.

The problem is that the 100 you reach directly aren't merely listeners to your message, and aren't merely devoted customers who buy your product. Such people are solid customers, but they do nothing to spread the word to others. A large audience of passive listeners is of great interest to traditional marketing, but of little value to social marketing.

In order to reach the "silent many," you have to connect to the "noisy few" - those who are not merely happy and loyal, but are enthusiastic enough to spread the word to others.

Identifying this small contingent of highly active people is difficult, but worthwhile: they will talk to you, they will talk about you, and they will spread the conversation far and wide.

Idiosyncrasies of Age Groups

The author points to some of the ways that older people and younger people differ in the way they approach technology and social media. (EN: The standard word of caution about ageism - it's not that they are old or young, but the life experience they had that makes the difference. Today's "young people" will not behave the same way as today's :old people" do when they get older, but will continue their current behaviors as they age.)

Older generations are more experiences in offline social networks, and regard the online networks as an extension of that which is lacking in many ways. Younger generations are less experienced in offline social networks and regard the online networks as the natural way of interacting, and find face-to-face interaction to be awkward and uncomfortable.

In regards to profiles, older generations complete a profile when they join a networking, and don't return to it very often. Younger generations provide scant information before interacting and come back to fill in the details later, constantly customizing it to create an impression on others with whom they interact.

Older generations see the computer as a tool for doing business and generally refrain from sing it for frivolous purposes, which limits both the amount of time they are willing to spend and the amount of information they are willing to share. Younger generations see it as a part of daily life that serves both business and personal needs, and as such are willing to devote a lot more time and use it for a wider range of purposes.

In terms of connections, older generations see social media as a way to connect and communicate with the people they already know in "real" life, whereas younger generations see it as a way to meet people for the first time and develop relationships with people they have never met, and may never meet, in real life.

The author also suggests that even younger generations are finding more of a balance. Specifically, teenagers use the social media as an extension of their real-life connections: they congregate online with groups of people they know offline and don't tend to interact outside their real-world social circle, which is much more like the approach of older generations.

There's also the notion of privacy: teens are "horrified that their parents are also on Facebook" keeping tabs on their behavior. They want to interact and share with their friends without constant observation, which means hiding things from their parents while communicating freely with their peers.

As a result, there is the misconception that teens do not make as much use of social media as young adults do. Such an assertion is difficult to prove or disprove, because we know that they make greater use of it than is easily observed simply because they are taking steps to conceal their online activity. How much activity is taking place in a concealed manner is impossible to gauge.

Leveraging Other Media

The written word is the most common way to communicate to others online, but audio and video bear consideration.

(EN: there's much to be said about AV content online, but what most concerns me is that it it's not all it's cracked up to be. AV content is primarily consumed for entertainment value, requires a high level of interest before clicking "play," and is not searchable. I wouldn't go to the extreme of saying "don't bother," but it is a niche tool that should not be the primary way of communicating.)

Podcasting has been around for over a decade, and the author claims it is very popular. This enables you to produce audio content that can be downloaded from various sources - chiefly Apple's iTunes service, but others exist. An audio program can be a minute or less to deliver a short, targeted message, or it can he a few hours long to accommodate a user's need for more extensive information.

Video sharing is also immensely popular online, and the author suggests that YouTube is "the second largest search engine" online. The amount of entertainment content (snippets taken, often without permission, from television or DVDs) is estimable, but it has been surpassed by original video content that has been produced specifically for online delivery.

In addition to delivering recorded programming, both Audio and Video can be used to communicate in real-time: the Internet can support online conversations similar to ta telephone call or videoconference, and online presentations are common.

The author refers obliquely to the problem of users who take audio and video files from their original sources and re-use then in their sites. The problem isn't that people do this, it's that companies are hostile toward this behavior: unless you are running a fee-based site and seek to make revenue from the media itself, you should accept that your media will be copied, rebroadcast, and mashed-up. Especially in social media, the fact that others will take your content and share it with others is not a problem, but the entire point.

Customer Service

The author suggests that Twitter "helps turn around negative attitudes ... in almost real time." If you monitor the feeds for any mention of your brand, you can identify and act upon negative comments. She tells the story of a friend who complained about the lag in his connection and mentioned the name of his service provider - who responded within a few hours and sent a maintenance team to his house within a few days to check his connection.

This instance demonstrates three things: (1) a company that springs to action at the first sign of trouble wins the loyalty and enthusiasm of one customer (2) by acting quickly, the company avoided having that one customer repeatedly complain in public, which would have damaged their brand, and others likely would have joined in (3) by responding quickly in social media, the firm demonstrated its commitment to customer service not only to this one person, but to anyone who might see or stumble upon the feed.

Saud another way, the firm didn't just solve an issue, it created a connection with the customer that turned a pessimist into an enthusiast and demonstrated to any who observed that it is genuinely concerned with providing good service.

(EN: It's probably also important to pay close attention to what the company did - specifically, it sought to fix the problem, not merely silence the complaint. Too often, the behavior I have seen by firms in social media is to dismiss, harass, and even threaten anyone who makes a statement that doesn't reflect well on their brand, rather than actually solving the problem that elicited the complaint.)

It's also important to note that social media shouldn't be your only venue for communicating with customers: they are not 100% reliable. Sites such as Twitter and Facebook are highly popular, and the volume of traffic, bugs and issues with upgrades, and the occasional DoS attack can render them unusable at times - not to mention that they are still not ubiquitous (there are still quite many people who don't participate in social media).