Fans matter, but friends of fans matter more it seems when it comes to spreading the word. According to this article in FastCompany, just 16% of company messages reach users in a given week, and the solution to that is to reach the friends of fans. So while Starbucks’s 23 million fans is impressive, the bulk of the numbers are the friends of those same fans: 670 million.
In other words, you can tick all the boxes in terms of traffic and friends, but the real sphere of influence is actually at the next degree of contact – and the dynamic driving that is the somewhat old-fashioned notion of talkability.
You may recall, some time back, the discussion about how many degrees of separation have strength in the social universe. How far into the network of friends of friends of friends do you have to go before the signals fade along with the trust? What this piece indicates to me is that two degrees out the message can be even stronger than it was at the first point of contact if it makes it that far. And the reason is that people aren’t hearing messages from brands themselves, they’re hearing about those brands from their friends.
I suspect though that the dynamic forks at the next level out. There is either huge drop-off as the subject runs out of talk-time or your brand “trends” and the talkability continues to climb as word gets round.
Ultimately though the take-out from this research has nothing to do with social media at all. The thing is, if you’re interesting people will talk about you – and if you’re not worth talking about, your brand will only get as far as the fanboys.
Most people recognise that you can’t just start talking and expect to pull off a keynote. Some planning needs to go in. Equally if you want people to have conversations about your brand, what do you want them to talk about? Have you planned the talking points? Or are you just leaving people to talk amongst themselves?
So many brands it seems to me start from a premise that they must be fascinating because people like them. Yes, that’s true for the first circle. But how do you get pass-on? How do you appeal to people where your brand doesn’t have top-of-mind?
My suggestion: take a hint from the world of costing and start from a zero-base. Assume no inherent interest and look at how you will build interest into who you are, what you do, what you say, where you go … to reach a targeted level of interest amongst that bigger friends of fans group.
You’re only as interesting as you make yourself.