Danny Brown has been a recent find of mine in the social media and PR world and a great addition to my reading. He is a PR consultant who writes some great articles with a very personal approach.
Continuum or Spectrum?
He recently had an interview with Tom Cunniff. The idea was The Continuum of Social Media. Being a physics geek, I had to check out anything with the word Continuum. The basic idea was that there is relationship between the size of the company (and the size of that company’s needed audience) to the percentage of their media being social media vs. traditional paid advertising. Small companies or individuals could benefit from 99% social media and 1% (in some cases, like mine, 0%) paid media. Meanwhile large corporations selling to huge markets would be more like 99% paid advertising to 1% social media. In between there is a whole continuous range of needs and uses of media. Continuum works but I keep coming back to the word spectrum as better representation of something that ranges from one end to the other. A continuum to me would suggest something wraps around on itself with no clear beginning or end.
In one of the responses to his own article, Danny left a comment mentioning the potential for bad word of mouth to spread very quickly. While the article was interesting in and of itself, this comment is what got me to thinking, and to respond with a comment of my own. Briefly, I pointed out that small companies can make use of social media to broadcast and advertise essentially for free like never before. The largest of companies would not benefit from the advertising they get from a few thousand followers on Twitter, since they need an audience of millions. What they do get however, is a chance to respond to the bad word of mouth on a personal basis that they have never had access to and potentially turn around some of that bad word of mouth.
Some New Ideas
After leaving the site, I kept thinking about this because it is the other side of exactly what the original article was talking about. Going back to my math roots, I realized this creates a great inverse relationship between a few things. To make it simpler, let me list the basic concepts:
- The smallest of companies (or individuals) can use social media to broadcast and start conversations that greatly help them.
- The largest of companies need a mass audience and will not benefit as much, needing to advertise on some level.
- The largest of companies will still be at risk of bad word of mouth, which can spread like wild fire now. On the other hand they can make use of social media to engage the consumer on a very personal level and possibly turn that around.
- The smallest of companies (or individuals) will still be at risk of bad word of mouth but their reach and their audience is limited. At first I thought this meant the damage would be limited. But now I have reversed that and think the damage could actually be GREATER because their ability to respond is limited.
This last point is the one that struck me. A good comparison would be a contractor who rips someone off. The word of mouth will spread around that customer’s group of friends and relatives, maybe that neighborhood (let’s use the word community), but the reach is limited. The contractor can go to the next community and do the same thing. Of course this kind of behavior will catch up with the contractor eventually but the idea is that they could keep hopping from community to community for a while. Compare that to a large international corporation whose brand could be tarnished forever because their scope is global. They have no next community to go to.
On the other hand, let’s take this into social media and see how things change. A small time individual (maybe a freelance web designer, like me?) could face a serious problem if bad word of mouth spreads. If some type of rumor, bad client experience, or anything negative were to somehow spread, it could very quickly grow beyond the reach of their small social circle. Now when that contractor goes to the next community there is a much better chance that the word has gotten out. Someone’s reputation and branding could be tarnished before they even have one. In addition to all this, they have no ability to take out a full page ad or 30 second TV spot to make sure their side is heard.
So we have something like this:
- Small companies benefit from Social Media with a better ability to market themselves and start conversations but could risk a limited ability to respond to and change or stop conversations.
- Larger companies might not need or even care about the small impact of Social Media on their initial marketing but could find a great way to connect directly to the conversations that are started about them.
Both of these are taking things to the extreme ends of the spectrum and there is a whole range of possibilities in between.
Can anyone add to this or relate some real world examples?