One of the biggest challenges faced by the social media evangelists, especially within major corporations, is to persuade their colleagues to redefine what represents a successful marketing campaign. To marketing heads weaned on a diet of tens of millions of advertising ratings or millions of household door-drops, the fact that you have persuaded a few thousand people to follow your Twitter page doesn’t sound particularly exciting. And certainly not something that justifies the amount of time required to recruit and then service the needs of those followers.
Tesco is celebrating the fact that it has persuaded 1,000 people to follow its Fresh & Easy US retail brand on Twitter. Whilst the company is to be congratulated for being willing to experiment with micro-blogging as a way to connect with its most loyal customers, it must be tough for Tesco’s social media experts when they get together with their colleagues in advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion. “You spent how much to get those thousand people? I could walk down the street and give the first 1,000 people I meet $100 and achieve the same effect for less money.”
Maybe, once you reach the level of Starbucks, which has 33,000 followers on Twitter, the economies of scale start kicking in and you can make a return on the investment (in time and manpower) required to service a social media community. Even then, you need to convince the internal cynics that 33,000 actively engaged consumers are as valuable, if not more so, that 33 million people reached through conventional advertising. Most marketers are beginning to recognise the value of engagement over reach, but they still have problems getting excited by four rather than seven or eight digit numbers.