Social media followers: quantity versus quality

It is no secret that most of retail brands (and companies in general) have become obsessed with the idea of social media and all the profit and “untapped” potential waiting to be harvested and “leveraged”. But what is really the advantage that followers in social media, namely twitter and facebook, can bestow to a company?

A good friend and colleague recently posted on twitter:

Sam Gough on twitter

Social media versus Traditional advertising and communication

So, what’s actually the big difference between advertising on a magazine or a POS (point of sale), or TV for that fact; and a social media network?

  • Social media is about being social, not an one direction communication but a multidirectional dialogue.
    Traditional media allows an one way, wide area non-targeted messaging
  • Social media is about personal opinion and recommendation not statements.
    Traditional media allow companies to make strong statements
  • Social media allow brands to leverage message virality to propagate their offer,
    Traditional media uses mostly the quantity of the receiving audience by catering to a massively larger market

So the clear advantage of social media seems to be that a message is more targeted, it’s multidirectional and can “go viral”, which means that you will never be able to talk to the same number of people you do using Traditional media and that if you want to attain that very specialised following you must have a very concise and clear message, not to mention that dialogue – almost always – requires more resources and time than a statement approach.

The delusion of followers and fan-base

Social media champions (yes this is actually a job description now days) will argue that most of the followers of a brand are actually fans that they would sell their liver for the brand they are following. Well I don’t believe that this is quite as simple as that. There are tens of ways that a brand can gain following. A good example would be a competition which almost in a form of extortion a brand will request you to like their page or follow them on twitter. The truth is that this actually works, very well.

In many ways this is no different than traditional advertising. Effectively you subscribe people to your newsletter. With no specific drive or commitment no matter how many followers you might have the “opening rate” of the brand’s newsletter will go down exponentially as more people join that pool. It’s like using a monkey to do a donkey’s job.

The power of true interaction

As mentioned above the big mistake that brands seem to do is that they approach social media as they would traditional media. Twitter and facebook was designed to promote discussions. Brands that did that (see Dell and their tech support over twitter example) have actually managed to create an exceptional “fan” base. They might now have 3 million users on their twitter account, but anyone who interacted with them (including me) knows that these are real people that want to help out and that they will actually apologise and try to help you. It is this personal interaction that makes them successful. This reinforces the brand and works along the traditional media marketing of the company to create a concise, clean and human approach.

Creating a tribe

Borrowing by Seth Godin’s brilliant work on Tribes, I cannot stress more how important it is to focus your following and talk to them. Making 10 people love what you are doing is not even comparable to having 10,000 “grabbed” followers. The reason behind this is really simple. These 10 people, if they love what you do they will talk about the brand to their friends with passion; which, effectively, means that they are doing the hard work for you (remember what I said above regarding the time that it takes?). Additionally, research has shown that recommendation from peers always carry a much heavier weight from any statement made by a brand. Practically those 10 voices will be heard louder and clearer, a fact, that means that the chances of converting other people to their passion is significantly higher than those 10,000 who will follow you and never think of your brand again.

In conclusion

I believe that followers can actually be extremely beneficial, but the way the marketeer approaches their procurement should aim towards creating well targeted, passionate about what the brand does individuals, of course the more famous and eloquent these people are, the better. There is a point to be made regarding the amount of followers and that it can be beneficial (as a long newsletter list would be), large numbers can still generate traction but this can also be done by using traditional media. Also, we have to consider that A-male prototype which dictates that the more following you have the higher the possibility to convert a new follower.

Do you believe that the quantity of followers on a twitter account makes it better?

How TicTrac and FitBit got me to rethink how I treat myself

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 21.16.19It’s said that any private or social interaction takes about 20 days of engagement to become a habit. Well, I am now on the 30th day of using TicTrac and the twentieth of using my FitBit and I can, without a doubt, declare that I am utterly hooked.

But let me tell you a story about how all of this started. For the last two years or so I have been  trying to lose weight and reach my “unicorn” of 82kgs. During this time not only have I failed to loose my kilos, but certain periods of depression or excessive carefree happiness have edged me closer to the dreaded beast of the 95kgs.

I was completely disenchanted and ready to give up when I talked to a very good friend of mine who has lately made it her business to make the people around her healthier. She showed me TicTrac and then pushed me to get a gym membership.


Truth been told, in the past I have tried many times the gym membership route and it mostly ended up with me paying a yearly membership and only going there for the first month or so which, quite honestly, sucked.

What changed this time? Well, this is the first time I can actually track my progress day by day. TicTrack allowed me to review the progress of my efforts and gave me insights I never had before, amongst other things what affects my diet, my mood and my excitement levels (along with a variety other aspects like when and for how long you had intercourse – hee hee!). Watching my weight go up or down based on accurate stats of my activity and daily mood showed me the right path quite organically.

TicTrac weight stats

At this point, the only problem was that at the end of every day I had to spend about 20 minutes inputting all my details in order to make my stats accurate. This wasn’t the best of experiences; mind you, the UX of TicTrac is amazing, it’s just that it takes time to add everything.

So what to do? Well, you have to get someone do all the hard number-counting and number-crunching for you. In my case, this is called FitBit.

FitBit (more specifically FitBit One) is a cool, tiny gadget that you attach to your trouser pocket or belt buckle, or even (ladies) your bra, which counts how many steps you’ve made, how many calories you’ve burnt and how active you are. In addition, FitBit One also checks your sleeping patterns by checking how many hours you slept and how many times you woke up in your sleep, showing you the quality of your sleep. It’s quite cool and it’s a nifty little gadget (I love gadgets ask my girlfriend, she knows!).

Why together? Oh, by far the coolest part about TicTrac is that it’s actually built as a data aggregator, which means that FitBit and tens of other social networks, gadgets, wifi scales etc. feed data into it … automatically! This meant that instantly my 20 minute data entry became 5 minutes of adding what FitBit couldn’t know about, like the fact that I swam my ass off (yes, I am now able to swim about 1.2km in 30 minutes, which I find quite an achievement). You see, FitBit is not water-proof, although it is sweat- and water-resistant, and even if it were, how the hell would it count distance swam?!


To recap, in less than a month I have managed to go from 94kg to 91kg and am still going down by exercising 2 to 3 times a week at the gym, cutting out sweets and be a bit more mindful of what I eat. I could have pushed even harder, but why do so? I feel much more energetic and happier with myself. I thought that going to the gym would take away from my free time but it actually added to it, since now I stay awake more than before. As a bonus, I have managed to evade a cold 3 times in this period despite the god-forsaken British March weather.

In my book that translates as AWESOME; you should try it as well! Go get a TicTrac account (it’s not like you have to pay for it) and maybe think of investing in a gadget like FitBit One or something similar; there’s plenty of choice out there.

Let me know how it goes and do tell me what you think in the comments below!

Bumping into strangers and apologizing about it

London train network can be a very very busy place during morning peak hours, who is to say it couldn’t be with around 4 million people rushing to reach their offices every day within a 2 hours range.

This happened today while heading from home to work. I was moving down the platform in Croydon station when I bumped on a lady that she was moving like a headless chicken. one minute later she grabbed my arm while I was walking and said “you should have said you are sorry” – I didn’t I actually haven’t felt I had a reason to. I recognize my error and apologize when I believe it’s the right thing to do. Should I have said “I am sorry” without meaning it just to uphold the social convention of being polite? I believe that we, all of us, should be more considerate of our actions and less bound from social

Twenty minutes later I am waiting for the tube train at London Bridge. I am now walking to take my place at the edge of the platform in London bridge northern line tube and I have bumped again on a lady. This time around it was clear it was my fault – she was on my left side – I immediately turned and said “I am so sorry” it wasn’t even a hard bump but I still felt obliged to, maybe because subconsciously I was still thinking about what happened. While I was muttering my apology she turned with a very angry face – I don’t know if she was angry because of my action or because she was pissed off in general – but she did gave me the evil eye … at least for the first tenths of the second. When she realized I had my puppy face and that I was apologizing already she broke a smile and responded “it’s ok”

I wonder if it was the apology itself or the fact that I really showed I meant it that makes a difference. So you think the result would have been the same if I just gave her a dry “sorry”

How important factor is the fact that we also kind of recognized each other (we are both at the same place on the platform almost twice a week)