Don’t Sweat the Social Hierarchy

In our previous post, Enable Social Tagging, we looked at using social tagging sites to raise your site’s profile. In this post, we enlarge on our theme from Social Media is the Megaphone and talk about social media as a conversation among equals.

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Don’t Sweat the Hierarchy

We’ve been quoting social media pundit Seth Godin in the last couple of posts and continue here, on the topic of modes of social media communication. Godin stresses that, since the nature of social media is distributed, non-hierarchical, and definitely not top-down, command-and-control, this have can implications for how your business is organized. He states that the huge non-profit United Way has underperformed in the last decade, and looks to the way they are organized as one of the keys.

The United Way is a classic top-down approach. By creating arrangements with the Fortune 500, they were able to do payroll deduction on millions of paychecks. That, all by itself, was key to their scale. But what happens when those relationships aren’t as important? Because people rarely talk about the United way and its work, the word of their great efforts doesn’t spread as far and as fast as it might. As a result, it’s hard for them to catch up when the payroll-deduction approach loses juice.

Compare this to the brilliant peer-to-peer gimmick embraced by Nike and Lance Armstrong. […] [T]he Armstrong LiveStrong idea spread so far, so fast precisely because of their side-to-side, not top down approach. In our ever faster, ever more selfish world, the chances of growing a non-profit with a top down approach are tiny. It’s just too hard, we’re to busy and you don’t have enough time or money.

Consider Godin’s recommendations along with ours as you prepare to engage with your community.

Give the Megaphone

Ask your supporters to commit. This goes beyond the kind of commitment represented by merely buying your product. Make it easy for your supporters to pick up the megaphone and tag your site, blog about it, “Like It” on Facebook,[1] +1 it via Google, tweet it on Twitter, and so on.

You’d be surprised how effective committed supporters can be:

  • Dell estimates[2] that a Dell detractor costs the company $57, and a promoter generates $328
  • A study across 20 brands by analyst firm Syncapse[3]found:
    • The average annualized value of an individual fan on Facebook is $136.38; the range is from $270.77 in the best case to $0 in the worst
    • On average, fans spend an extra $71.84 they would not otherwise spend on products they describe themselves as fans of, compared to those who are not fans.
      • McDonald’s saw the largest variability, with Fans reporting spending $159.79 more per year than non-fans
      • Oreo saw the lowest value with a difference of $28.52
  • Fans are 28 percent more likely than non-fans to continue using a specific brand
  • Fans are 41 percent more likely than non-fans to recommend a product they are a fan of to their friends
  • An average fan may participate with a brand ten times a year and will make one recommendation. But, an active fan may participate thirty times and make ten recommendations.
  • On the other hand, social media management firm Vitrue found that a Facebook Fan is worth $3.60 of media value
    • Vitrue determined[4] that on average, a fan base of 1 million translates into at least $3.6 million in equivalent media over a year at a $5 CPM (meaning, that a brand’s 1 million fans generate about $300,000 in media value each month)

Of course, there are lots of ways to give your supporters the megaphone, and we cover many more techniques in the chapters that follow.

The key is to give the megaphone, not hog it.

Next up: Measure Social Media Results

Don’t Sweat the Social Hierarchy is the 36th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, Why Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1

[1] Add a Like Button – Facebook Developers:

[2] Dave Chaffey:

[3] Gigaom’s How Much Is a Facebook Fan Really Worth? Link to the report PDF:

[4] Real Time Marketer’s A Facebook Fan is Worth $3.60. Really? A dissenting view from The Future Buzz’s More Absurd Social Media Analysis – The Value Of A Fan

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