I’ve developed an addiction to a silly iPhone game called Block-Off. It’s one of those dumb block removal games where, if you find two or more blocks of the same color connected to one another, you tap them and they disappear, realigning the columns. The various opportunities to remove similar blocks, depending upon the arrangement, makes it difficult to “clear the board” which you naturally think is the ultimate performance.

But the more you play the game, the more you realize that clearing the board does little for you. Yes, you get a “Well Done!” pronouncement from the app and a few bonus points to your overall score (accumulated in various increments depending upon how many of each color you remove at a time), but clearing the board is not the point of the game.

Block Off Screen ShotBlock-Off ranks its players by highest score, not tiles cleared. In order to be No. 1 on the list of high scores at the hardest level, you would need to accumulate a high score of about 120. But if you get a good layout to begin with and can maneuver so that you remove 10 or more of one color at once, you can score 120 or more but immediately lose the game because there are no more matching tiles adjacent to one another.

My son and I play the game against each other every so often. He tries to clear the board. I try to accumulate the highest score by arranging the board so I remove more consecutive colored blocks at once.

It occurred to me that social media measurement and social media ROI have essentially become a big game of Block-Off. Everyone is out there trying to accumulate the most Facebook fans, blog comments or e-newsletter subscribers. But none of those are the point. To make the high score list, you have to connect with the right audience, not the largest audience, then drive them to do become a customer.

Stop playing the game like my five-year-old. Think about what it takes to win, then go do it.

So, what does a win look like to you? The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://askaaronlee.com Aaron Lee

    I used to treat social media as a game. Somehow it helped me to get ahead a little. However I've taken it more seriously and connecting with more people and more users.

    Thanks for blog post and using the game to start off.

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    Game Theory is *SO* very misunderstood, and social media is no different.

    Jason, to use an even more tangible analogy, the football team that owns time of possession usually wins, but doesn't have to. The team that gains more yards usually wins, but isn't guaranteed to. The team with fewer penalty yards and turnovers often wins, but not always.

    Many people play “games” in social media and social marketing, but they are playing with the wrong equipment, the wrong ball, and the wrong rules.

    Game Theory works when you understand the objective well enough to design rules that take you to the desired result. In an economy, it's price-value-and-productivity, and marginal improvements lead to victory. In marketing, it's the old ROI Scoreboard. The disconnect for us as communicators is properly tying the metrics to the final score.

    Well done, blockhead. ;)

  • UrbaneWay

    Hey Jason,
    This Social Media Game we are all immersed in isn't as easy to win as it appears. First thing to define is what does a win really look like. We are all practicing, and while some things work, most of what we have experimented with didn't work. As I reflect and think about how to deploy future marketing dollars, it becomes intoxicating thinking about how to grow the numbers, after all, business has typically rewarded larger numbers.

    It seems to always come back to doing something Remarkable, albeit that is a somewhat overused phrase. I think that the manor in which marketing works hasn't changed so much, it is the distribution that has reversed.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair points, E. Remarkable will always win in the bell-and-whistle type way,

      but I still think just showing up says a lot these days. Many companies are

      still falling over themselves trying to figure out how to be human while the

      handful that are, are developing lasting relationships with consumers and

      friends. There may not be anything inordinately flashy about Naked Pizza's

      coupons on Twitter, but the fact they're responsive and give a little treat

      to their socially connected friends will benefit them for years to come, my

      man.

  • http://twitter.com/kennysilva Kenny Silva

    Great stuff. The mistake most people and organizations make is when they fail to define what a 'win' looks like. I hear so many people talk about how they 'need' to get on Facebook and Twitter, amass a huge following, and then find a way to cash in on that following. In the pursuit of inflated numbers, they turn to all sorts of shady means of inflating numbers (auto-followers, bots, etc.)

    Playing to win, for me, involves creating compelling content that connects with the people I want to connect with on an emotional level. A digital connection means nothing unless there is some sort of real connection to go along with it. When someone connects to what you have to say and what you have to do, that is when you've got a true follower.

    True followers champion your cause, spread your message, and if you're in business, buy your stuff.

  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    Jason, great post. I think getting high friend/follower counts is human nature. It's like buying a lottery ticket. With no ticket, you definitely won't win. The more tickets you buy, the better your chances (in theory).

    Only after using and studying social media for months and years (not days and weeks), does the user begin to grasp the need for real strategy. For example, an architecture firm may find it dumb to pay for expensive real estate on Michigan Ave. in Chicago, or put an add in the yellow pages, because they aren't looking for foot traffic, nor does anyone use the telephone book to find an architect. New clients for an architecture firm come from building relationships, not sticking up billboards (I would think anyhow.)

    But companies often don't naturally apply that same logic to SEO or social media initiatives. They act like they need the most visibility possible, not targeted visibility.

    Most service companies need 20 or so paying clients a year, not thousands of friends who aren't clients. But they feel like thousands of followers might very well ultimately mean more paying clients, much like more lottery tickets equals more chances to win, theoretically.

    I was reading Social Media Metrics by Jim Sterne this weekend (excellent book BTW). I was struck by how much Jim pointed out isn't figured out yet, when it comes to measuring results in social media, and how the tools available right now don't really do an adequate or all that accurate job of measuring what companies need to know. We're still in the Model T era of this stuff, in my humble opinion, and that's part of the problem as well.

  • http://www.queensboro.com Jim Goodwin

    Thanks, Jason. As we've been increasing our social media presence over the past two years, we also struggled with the quantity vs quality quandary. Though we still appreciate seeing growth, we now appreciate the growth that comes from referrals by enthusiastic fans of the company. They know people who need our products and services and, in many cases, have sold the customer before they have even hit one of our pages.

    Of course, as several people have already pointed out, once you attract the right people, you have to constantly work to keep them engaged. From our experience, the time and effort involved in these tasks are a great investment in the future health of any company.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed. Thanks, Jim.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    I would call the social media game “Block head” instead of “Block Off” … but that's another story. The challenge to this “game” is that the gameboard is shifting and the rules are changing, often without you knowing it! A very difficult challenge indeed. Also, “winning” is defined by the player, not by anybody else. So my tokens are probably different than your tokens. I think it was Chris Brogan, in the library, with the candlestick. Just a guess.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      You make me mad and laugh all at the same time. You know that, right?

  • icanewfriend

    Jason, you are spot on. “Numbers” simply make you a collector. Conversations make you a player. And, sincerity and trust make you a winner.

    Marc

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thank you, sir.

  • http://twitter.com/eShekell Erica Shekell

    Social media are so (relatively) new that many people are still caught up with the sheer impressiveness of the number of followers, page views, etc. they can rack up. Once people grow accustomed to how many people exist online and how many people will respond to the things that they put online – essentially, once the novelty wears off – they'll start focusing on the quality of their visitors rather than the quantity.

    Right now they're still thinking in the old marketing way of blindly broadcasting a message out to as many people as possible, without realizing that the benefit of social media is not that it's simply a new place to broadcast their message, but that it is a new place in which it is easier than ever to customize a message to an individual and reach out with the personal touch that “quality” visitors will respond to.

    Companies/groups/individuals who don't pick up on this nuance run the risk of being labeled as clueless, and being ignored by the people they wish to reach out to – just as these people ignored their messages broadcast through old media.

  • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

    It does make me think that there's a potential market for a social media MMORPG. Heh.

  • http://www.DonnyGamble.com Donny Gamble

    I am definitely in the game to win. There is just no other way to play

  • http://twitter.com/OddDadOut Odd Dad Out

    I think it's going to take a while to chip away at the conventional and short-sighted mindset. It's something I've been running into a lot, which is nothing new for anyone working in this segment of the social media game, but it seems to be particularly tough here in a conservative market like Houston.

    Numbers, numbers, numbers which, having been on the corporate side of things analyzing lead generation, I understand. The question I pose to people, though, is, who do you have a better chance of converting into a sale: a prospect that's engaging you? Or one who say's they're just looking around? Where then are you going to focus your energies? So why then would you focus your efforts on building big numbers when you should focus on engaging those who have the greater potential to help you achieve your ultimate goals.

    One other way I explain it is have them look at it like the game Monopoly. You can buy up every property you land on and put houses on them or you can buy fewer, yet more expensive properties and put hotels on them. The player with the houses might have a wider net, but they're only making small time money. However, the player with the hotels on the big money spaces will eventually win.

    …funny thing though, you'd be surprised at how many people forget how to play Monopoly unless it comes attached to a large carton of fries.

  • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

    Reading your post, I think of the land grabs from long ago. There was an open call and enticing promises of what could be, in unchartered territory…something glorious just beyond current reach. In reality, the competition was stiff and some used dirty tactics, and you most likely found someone had already claimed your slice of paradise. If you were lucky enough to claim a spot, you soon discovered you had to work like hell to make something of it. There were no gimme's.

    I think operating in this space can have some similarities with a modern twist. Tools and profiles are open to everyone and how it all coalesces can still be a mystery…but the promise of *something* can keep many involved, even if they're uncertain of the end value. Thinking about your other recent post (“Share Good Shit”) supports what I'm saying. You gotta be in it for the right reasons, and with a lot of time and commitment you'll see the kind of reciprocal flow that makes it all worthwhile, whatever your business goal.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I would agree with that, Heather. But I think we pay far too much attention

      to the “in it for the right reasons” and hand-holding, Kumbaya stuff and not

      enough to the business goals side of what social media marketing is. Yes,

      social media emerged in response to big corporations talking at not with and

      is a consumer-centric revolution. But if we get all warm and fuzzy all day

      without setting business goals and moving toward a bottom line metric that

      proves participating is driving business, then we're fooling ourselves into

      thinking social media is good business. If it doesn't move the needle, it's

      not. Fair?

      • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

        Heather, I certainly think there is a “gold rush” mentality to it right now. But instead of most people leaving with nothing, I genuinely think most businesses can leave with something valuable, but that all depends on what the goals are, and if they're suited for your company. Social media lends itself better to some businesses than others, but there's a slice in there for everyone.

        Jason, I think most businesses do want to move the needle, but it's so new that most are unclear how to do that, so they sometimes get swept up in the Kumbaya crowd.

  • http://www.wickedinnovations.com/ Jeorge Peter

    Definitely, that the main reason why you're playing in the first place. Somewhat the same with the competition on social media marketing. You'll keep your competitor behind by maintaining a good and working plan on how to market your site.

  • http://qbic.in/ Brand Consulting India

    Deep thought. People actually don't know what is the basic purpose of social media and how should it be used for better results.

  • http://twitter.com/Banburyshire Ian Gentles

    I enjoyed you analogy and your scribe. Although isn't social media meant to be social? It's an excellent starting point building worth while relationships, and If you're worthy, then they'll play the game for you.

  • http://www.LinkedMediaGroup.com Linked Media Group, Inc.

    Insightful post Jason. Am in violent agreement – so many are chasing raw numbers and not really looking at “influencers” such as yourself.

  • http://twitter.com/Greyindecision Devdarshini Mhatre

    Agree with you. Love the fancy analogy and inspiration for the post.

  • http://www.performanceinsiders.com/ageless-male.html Ageless Male

    thats true the more you play the game the more you realize that clearing board does little for you :D