Social Media and Scalability

By December 10, 2008

Beth Harte recently wrote a blog post asking if social media is scalable. She asserted that once hundreds or thousands join the conversation, one person/company cannot continue a two-way conversation. She concludes:

“Two-way conversations are not scalable. Once they reach the tipping point, two-way conversations revert back to one-way conversations (or the community conversing amongst themselves). At this point, Web 2.0 tools join the arsenal of traditional marketing tools (such as direct marketing, e-mail marketing, PR, advertising, etc.) to continue mass, one-way communication efforts.”

I don’t disagree, but I do have a slightly different perspective. That is, done correctly, social media IS scalable. In fact for it to become a valuable tool for any company is MUST be scalable. Take Comcast for instance. They have at least 8 customer services representatives actively engaging customers on Twitter. Dell computers also has several official reps there too. They may not all be in the same conversation, but  they are still all having a Comcast discussion. Much like the small groups that form at a very large party.

Zappos and others have created a scalable scenario by encouraging and empowering the entire staff to be brand evangelists through social media (Twitter specifically, but expansion beyond that platform is inevitable). I recall reading a post (can’t remember who, thinking Mack Collier) that said, in essence, think of the benefits a large corporation would receive if they took a million dollars from the ad budget and hired a staff of ’social media relations’ experts to, listen, blog, comment on blogs, and Tweet all day, every day.

Which would have more of a positive effect on the bottom line? A couple of network TV ads that were largely ignored or several hundred (or thousand) customers transformed into enthusiastic brand ambassadors through meaningful conversations. Corporate marketing directors easily discount the idea, claiming they have a consumer affairs hotline that can address issues in real time. When, in the real world, they perform below consumers expectations. On the phone they are expected to be reactive, concerned and compassionate. Regulatory and legal constraints prevent them from offering what the consumer expects. In a social media setting, the consumer is sought out and contacted proactively, which generally impresses the consumer.

Just as the editor of the New York Sun Time proclaimed to Virginia, yes, there is a Santa Claus, I submit that, yes, Social Media IS scalable. It just depends on your belief in the value of it and your commitment to fully funding social media relations in your company.

What do You think? Post a comment and join the conversation.

Categories : SocialMedia

Ben Waugh December 10, 2008

I discovered your homepage by coincidence.
Very interesting posts and well written.
I will put your site on my blogroll.

Jonathan Trenn December 12, 2008


While I agree with your point that social media is scalable, I’m still at a loss at how many see @comcastcares as being social media. True, Twitter is a social media platform, but I see that as basic customer service. When conversations become multidimensional on Twitter is when I see it qualifying as being social media. Maybe I’m missing something.

But yes, social media is scalable.

sschablow December 15, 2008

Jonathan, Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with your point re: @comcastcares. Just because someone uses a social media tool doesn’t mean they’re using it for social media. While there may be an occasional Tweet on a different subject, most of the conversation is strictly customer service.

sschablow December 15, 2008

Ben, Thanks for the compliment. I’ll return the link love. 😉

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