I was at a fascinating conference last week. It starred the great and the good of marketing in general and online in particular…it’s not often I get to share a panel with CMOs of fortune 1,000 companies. There was much hand wringing and chatter about social media. I thought that was interesting in part because I really expected social to be fully adopted and integrated by these marketing behemoths. The repeated refrain was to the effect that ‘we may hate it but we have to do it although we can’t work out what (if any) return it generates’.
I was impressed by a bunch of really interesting data that was shared by some of the speakers. The data I found most interesting surrounded how much of the brand conversation happens in social media. One of the CMOs (I think it was Johnson and Johnson…if I misremember I apologize) revealed that in their exhaustive tests something like 8% of the total brand conversation happens in social media. The rest of the conversation happens face to face, in the car over the phone…where ever people have conversations. The other key stat I found compelling was that in the world of social media 21% of all users are thought leaders. They are the ones who post the most, have the most friends and followers, who start conversations and who set agendas.
That presents a real challenge for marketing folk. Getting to those relatively few people is crucial to moving the dial on product awareness and success. The math is probably a stretch…but with 21% of social media leaders driving the lion’s share of 8% of all brand conversations that means that for every hundred people in the online swim of things just 1.68 people are really all that matter. Reaching those 1.68 people is the challenge.