Outside the Fishbowl

by Ike Pigott |

Businesses are all about their business. Otherwise they would be hobbies or activities.

When you get to the realm of Tweeters and TheFacebook and all of the bright and shiny YouTubes, businesses have a bottom line they have to meet, and they don’t always have time to do the research they need to stay on top of trends.

We’re talking about people who don’t have time to check in at Mashable or AllFacebook, and executives who aren’t interested in knowing the difference between CoTweet and HootSuite and RePeet and whatever else emerges tomorrow.

The way to reach them is to speak the language they know. They don’t live in a Social Media Fishbowl. But they do understand fishbowls.

Numbers Game

Right now, there are at least a half-dozen social media experts writing articles and blog posts about how busy executives ought to select their social media consultant. Some of them might even include one or two measures that don’t apply to them!

Many of these potential clients will see the numbers being mentioned, and certainly some of those quantifications of quality ought to matter. A friend of mine was recently asked why she didn’t have more followers on Twitter. (She has more than 2,300.) She answered, “I have built a highly-engaged following, and I like the quality of my network.”

But why isn’t it bigger?

She wanted to point out to them how easy it is to buy followers on Twitter — there are many services that sell them. The going rate right now for Facebook Likes is somewhere between 14 and 18 cents. So, if you have a business and want to have 1,000 people “like” your page by the end of the week, you could get it done for $160 or so. Instant Social Media Magic, right?

Apples and Applesauce

The truth is, it’s hard to communicate the value of a Quality presence or following to someone who doesn’t have the experience to know the difference. Not until you find the right analogy.

Business owners who don’t know a Twitter from a Twirler do know what to do with those fishbowls at the cash register of a restaurant or store. You drop in your card, and at some point you might win something.

You are giving up your contact information, and you might get an email about a sale or a discount in the future. (If the business is smart, they’ll start with an email just thanking you for your patronage, and asking for feedback — but most aren’t there yet.)

Now — take that Fishbowl of cards and let it be a metaphor for Quality.

Which would you rather have? The names and addresses of 50 people who have actually been in your store — or the names and addresses of 1,000 people you bought off a prospect list?

That’s a no-brainer, right?

Because if you truly believe that buying 1,000 Facebook Likes or Twitter followers is the same as having a naturally-cultivated list of 1,000 — then you’re equating foot traffic in your store with owning a phone book. It’s comparing apples to applesauce — they sound similar, but you have to handle them very differently.

Now, when you put it like that, it’s easy to make the differentiation.

And if more businesses and organizations understood how easy it is to buy the numbers, they’d be less inclined to focus on the Quantity and instead look at the Quality.

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About the Author

Ike Pigott

In his previous life, Ike Pigott was an Emmy-winning TV reporter, who turned his insider's knowledge of the news cycle into a crisis communications consultancy. At the American Red Cross, serving as Communication and Government Relations Director for five southeastern states, Ike pioneered the use of social media in disaster. Now -- by day -- he is a communications strategist for Alabama Power and a Social Media Apologist; by night, he lurks at Occam's RazR, where he writes about the overlaps and absurdities in communications, technology, journalism and society. Find out how you can connect with Ike or follow him on Twitter at @ikepigott. He also recently won the coveted "Social Media Explorer contributing writer with the longest Bio" award.