What About the Million Follower Question?

Cathy Taylor moderated this panel at OMMA Social in San Francisco a bit ago and I found myself in a discussion with Michael Lazerow about which is more useful to a brand- “a million followers without any idea of what you’re going to do with them” or a “kick ass strategy with zero”?

Michael says “I’m of the opinion that having a million followers and fans with no idea of what you’re going to do with them in the future is the single best thing you can do from a marketing perspective….Would you rather have a million people on your email list or a kick ass strategy with zero..”

I’m of the opinion that a good strategy will reward you with engaged and active followers, and I don’t want to hang Michael out as the “bad guy” here.  Buddy Media does  great work  and I actually showcased their SeaWorld – Busch Gardens Facebook app for this panel.

The question remains a big one and I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Would you rather have a million followers with no clue what you’re going to do with them or a kick ass plan and no followers (yet)?


Watch live video from richreader on Justin.tv

By the way, big thanks to Rich Reader for videotaping this event. Rich does a lot of these as a public service and we all appreciate his efforts. Unfortunately the demand on bandwidth at the Nikko that day was pretty fierce so the stream is a little choppy.

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  • fouts
  • February 26, 2010
  • It's super hard to hear this video clip, and hard to really tell what's going on in the discussion without more context, but just straight up what do I think about either strategy?

    I think the jury's still out. I think social media is still so new that no one can say one particular way works for all. I think there's room for both strategies – a brand can begin collecting followers while they figure out what to do with them for example. Or a brand can carefully plan their approach and put all the pieces in place and then ask for an audience.

    And I definitely think it's okay to disagree on a high-profile panel in front of a live audience. The more opinions we have out there, the better for all of us to keep inventing and discovering what works in social media.

  • I agree completely with Alyce about how productive it can be to represent both sides of an argument in front of less experienced practitioners.

    I actually split the difference between the two strategies. I think, within reason, that following many tweeps is warranted. BUT, this isn't just about following everyone on the planet. The key is, as with all online activities, relevance.

    What do I mean? I will freely follow tweeps who are from Austin (my locale), interested in social media or other topics I blog about, fantasy sports entrepreneurs, or security / data center folks with whom I may have interacted in my work with local tech companies.

    But if an MLM person follows me and all they do it push out self-centered messages, there's absolutely no reason to clog up my timeline with their spam. Sometimes one of them makes it through, but I eventually find the spammers and filter out.

    Also, the “follow everyone” strategy doesn't work like you think it does. There are a slew of system gamers out there who follow, wait for reciprocation, and then purge you. Those bother me the most, and they get immediately purged in return. Thanks to my good friend Twitter Karma!

    Overall, though, kudos to Janet for sticking to her guns.

  • Ha! As I recall just before the panel Cathy said “feel free to disagree…”. I do think it's important to discuss on a panel rather than just pitch. Thanks for your support!

    I know that my own following–just around 3K on Twitter alone–sets people off on the “how can you possibly talk to that many people?' discussion. I like the strategy Tommy talks about. Following people with like interests, whether geographic or topical makes sense. There's a plan there.

    Too many brands seem to be number gathering without such a plan and I think in the end that loses trust.. You follow them or sign up for their Facebook page and then they never talk to you, or only when they want to pitch something? What do you think of them then?

  • remarkablogger

    The question itself is ridiculous, because you only get benefits with one choice (a million followers) and not the other (zero followers).

    You can't do anything with zero followers, so your strategy is irrelevant in that case. Now, I'm taking the question at face value. If what was really meant was few followers, then that's what should have been said.

    You can figure out what to do with a million followers. You can come up with a strategy first, but the reality of actually having a million followers means that strategy (and related tactics) might very well end up out the window. If you know how to listen, your followers will tell you what to do.

  • “If you know how to listen, your followers will tell you what to do.” Great point.
    BUT you gotta talk to them and listen for that to be effective. and…wait for it…that's a strategy….
    ( :
    Maybe building a big list and listening to it to develop your strategy based on that is the point?

  • Relevancy is the only thing that actually matter in any marketing case unless of course you are snake oil sales man who is driving through town to town only to find him or herself alone on a desolate paradise island.

    The truth is, our merchant supported solution uses geography and shared livelihood as our relevance. Granted seeing numbers are fun and further feed our addiction to social media, but we have made some great progress and relationships through the creation of pertinent and value communitcation strategies.

    Enjoy. Local. Livelihood.

    🙂

  • I agree with both Alyce and Tommy, but interestingly enough, the company had to be doing SOMETHING before your strategy came in to get to a million followers so this question is skewed a little.

    Maybe your strategy takes the company down a different path than they were on, but one would have to make the assumption some of those million were interested in what you had to say and I would be thrilled to be able to start with an interested bunch somewhere between 0-1,000,000 than at zero.

  • It's super hard to hear this video clip, and hard to really tell what's going on in the discussion without more context, but just straight up what do I think about either strategy?

    I think the jury's still out. I think social media is still so new that no one can say one particular way works for all. I think there's room for both strategies – a brand can begin collecting followers while they figure out what to do with them for example. Or a brand can carefully plan their approach and put all the pieces in place and then ask for an audience.

    And I definitely think it's okay to disagree on a high-profile panel in front of a live audience. The more opinions we have out there, the better for all of us to keep inventing and discovering what works in social media. Way to go Janet, sticking with your opinion on this panel.

    @alyce

  • I agree completely with Alyce about how productive it can be to represent both sides of an argument in front of less experienced practitioners.

    I actually split the difference between the two strategies. I think, within reason, that following many tweeps is warranted. BUT, this isn't just about following everyone on the planet. The key is, as with all online activities, relevance.

    What do I mean? I will freely follow tweeps who are from Austin (my locale), interested in social media or other topics I blog about, fantasy sports entrepreneurs, or security / data center folks with whom I may have interacted in my work with local tech companies.

    But if an MLM person follows me and all they do it push out self-centered messages, there's absolutely no reason to clog up my timeline with their spam. Sometimes one of them makes it through, but I eventually find the spammers and filter out.

    Also, the “follow everyone” strategy doesn't work like you think it does. There are a slew of system gamers out there who follow, wait for reciprocation, and then purge you. Those bother me the most, and they get immediately purged in return. Thanks to my good friend Twitter Karma!

    Overall, though, kudos to Janet for sticking to her guns.

  • Ha! As I recall just before the panel Cathy said “feel free to disagree…”. I do think it's important to discuss on a panel rather than just pitch. Thanks for your support!

    I know that my own following–just around 3K on Twitter alone–sets people off on the “how can you possibly talk to that many people?' discussion. I like the strategy Tommy talks about. Following people with like interests, whether geographic or topical makes sense. There's a plan there.

    Too many brands seem to be number gathering without such a plan and I think in the end that loses trust.. You follow them or sign up for their Facebook page and then they never talk to you, or only when they want to pitch something? What do you think of them then?

  • remarkablogger

    The question itself is ridiculous, because you only get benefits with one choice (a million followers) and not the other (zero followers).

    You can't do anything with zero followers, so your strategy is irrelevant in that case. Now, I'm taking the question at face value. If what was really meant was few followers, then that's what should have been said.

    You can figure out what to do with a million followers. You can come up with a strategy first, but the reality of actually having a million followers means that strategy (and related tactics) might very well end up out the window. If you know how to listen, your followers will tell you what to do.

  • “If you know how to listen, your followers will tell you what to do.” Great point.
    BUT you gotta talk to them and listen for that to be effective. and…wait for it…that's a strategy….
    ( :
    Maybe building a big list and listening to it to develop your strategy based on that is the point?

  • Relevancy is the only thing that actually matter in any marketing case unless of course you are snake oil sales man who is driving through town to town only to find him or herself alone on a desolate paradise island.

    The truth is, our merchant supported solution uses geography and shared livelihood as our relevance. Granted seeing numbers are fun and further feed our addiction to social media, but we have made some great progress and relationships through the creation of pertinent and value communitcation strategies.

    Enjoy. Local. Livelihood.

    🙂

  • I agree with both Alyce and Tommy, but interestingly enough, the company had to be doing SOMETHING before your strategy came in to get to a million followers so this question is skewed a little.

    Maybe your strategy takes the company down a different path than they were on, but one would have to make the assumption some of those million were interested in what you had to say and I would be thrilled to be able to start with an interested bunch somewhere between 0-1,000,000 than at zero.

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