Sushobhan Chowdhury
Sushobhan Chowdhury 9 March 2013


Fan base, Followers, Likes and Hits. What is the real purpose and relevance of these numbers?


Sushobhan, congratulation! You are one of the top 1% most viewed profiles for 2012’.  Felt chuffed at first but then 1 in 2 million started sounding a lot less encouraging, rather meaningless. Notwithstanding the campaign worked its magic and delivered the results for the company but the value and relevance of the number in absolute terms is up for debate, especially for the user.


Not that I am against big numbers but I am opposed to strings of meaningless digits. Let me explain why.


The below example is not directly related to the subject but I am using it just to set the context.


A mathematician from the University of Central Missouri in Kansas, US, has identified the largest prime number yet. The feat has got the professor worldwide coverage. He is now richer by $3000 and hop skipped in to the Hall of Fame.


The question is - what relevance does the largest prime have in our or the professor’s social life? Can he or any of us use that number in day-to-day life?


Similarly in the world of consumer dynamics where sentiments, passion and emotions are the derivatives of a brand’s social asset, numbers that do not converge to a meaningful and relevant outcome is of no use.


But when numbers are cultivated and harvested in an effective manner the results are nothing but spectacular. One particular example that stands out in this context is the Old Spice Responses Campaign. There’s nothing new or great about Old Spice but the way they charted their comeback is nothing but a great story. What is particularly commendable is how they harnessed the numbers almost in real time and used it to their advantage. From near oblivion they rocketed to the No.1 position. Not only did they achieve scale and stature, they also found a way to win over their fans. Check out the case study here.  


That brings me to the second part of the problem. Big numbers mean lower share of attention. It is practically impossible to talk to all of 2 million. And not knowing whom you’re talking or worse still not talking at all, especially on a social platform is akin to plain indifference.


Marketers spend a great deal of time scrutinizing their TG, wanting to know who they are but when it comes to showing how much they know, efforts are far less sociable. Everyone is restless to jump on to the social bandwagon but no one has any clue how to manage the show, how to have a conversation and how to engage. Pushing random content and expecting users to like it and have meaningful conversation around it is nothing but archaic.


There is also a fundamental contradiction in the basic principle of social equipoise. By classical definition, a social link is established when 2 individuals meet on the basis of perceived similarity. Age, gender, status or proximity has no bearing on the equilibrium of the relationship, even when the social link multiplies. But when it comes to brands that logic doesn’t work. Big numbers change the equation, disturbs the social equilibrium. How practical do you think it is for a brand in the social context to have 2 million fans and still have a 2-way conversation?


If brands are striving to be social then why behave like celebrities with fans and followers and not friends?


Kraft attempted to bridge that gap with their Likeapella campaign and it did a great deal of good to them as well. Recognizing and appreciating your friends (fans) is a great way of saying you care and that you are one of them.


Frito Lays’ Do Us a Flavor campaign has also done that remarkably well. Handing ownership makes a brand so much more accessible and social.


Creating meaningful ways to interact and engage with your friends (fans), converting them from bystanders to stakeholders is a great way of harnessing loyalty and I think all brands should build it in to their long-term strategy.


In this glitzy yet competitive social world it is very easy to get caught up in the deceptive charm of numbers. We need to understand that the value of likes, shares, fan base, impression and views are of no real consequence unless you know what to do with them.


Numbers are meaningless on their own. They can’t speak for themselves. We need to imbue meaning in them, create a context and make it favourable not only for us but for others too.


Big numbers that don’t evoke any meaning but sit all pretty and dandy is good as junk. Lust for numbers that you can use, control and encash for something far greater in value.

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