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The Utopian notion of two-way conversations being the primary purpose of social is not only generally impractical and unscalable, but just not what most people want. I do my best to respond to tweets directed at me, but the vast majority of my followers are passive consumers of the tweets I publish and the content I share. And I have no problem at all with that .
Meanwhile, I happily accept my role as a passive consumer of some of the best content I see in social media. For instance, I follow Nebraska adman and Twitter wit Tim Siedell, aka @badbanana, who tweets random musings like "What's that thing that 's like Photoshop except way easier to use and it's for real life? Oh yeah, vodka."
I occasionally retweet Siedell's gems, and last year I bought his his Amazon Kindle ebook, "Marching Bands are Just Homeless Orchestras, Half-Empty Thoughts Vol. 1" (a $2.99 collection of some of his funniest tweets). But just because Siedell is on Twitter doesn't mean we have, or ever should have, a two-way conversation.
Siedell, God bless him, entertains; I sit back and get entertained.
Meanwhile, Twitter itself is becoming more like a traditional media company in that it's trying to find more and better ways to filter and present its content, while channeling users' interests and cuing their behavior. Consider its recent Ad Scrimmage project, with the tagline "Watch, vote and tweet your favorite Super Bowl commercial."
Savor the irony: Twitter baited its users into broadcasting their thoughts about the most expensive form of advertising on that antique broadcast medium known as TV.
So maybe it's OK to think of social as a form of broadcast media, at least some of the time? Though I'd say so, some social-media purists freak out at the idea.
For example, AdAge.com recently published a a guest post by Zach Rosenberg , director of the L.A. office of Horizon Media, titled "How to Turn Tweets Into Ratings Points." The gist of his argument was that if you're disseminating marketing messages via Twitter, it's useful to think about tracking and analyzing the reach and resonance of those messages.
Rosenberg proposed a formula for calculating Target Ratings Points (TRPs) for tweets based on a bunch of things, including the fact that the average Twitter user has 136 followers and that there's a 5% likelihood ("a conservative estimate based on partners who leverage the Twitter platform") that any of them will see any given tweet.
Rosenberg's post was shared widely -- it was tweeted 661 times, according to our on-page tweet counter, which tends to lowball. But it also attracted three angry comments -- so angry you'd think Rosenberg had proposed that Twitter somehow be used to drown kittens. Some choice excerpts:
"OMG LOL SRSLY? #FAIL. This is not only unnecessary, it's wrong. Twitter is a dynamic conversation driven by consumers; TRPs are a static estimation of passive commercial delivery."While I agree that plenty of agencies, media, brands and marketers are pretty clueless about social media and misuse it a lot, the idea that "social media is not a broadcast medium and never has been" is folly.
"Social media is not a broadcast channel ... so please stop with these broadcast metrics and comparing it to media channels."
"After I checked that it wasn't April Fool's, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at this ridiculous post. And how did Ad Age allow this to be published? Social media is NOT a broadcast medium and never has been. Yet, many agencies, media, brands and marketers simply treat it as such."
My colleague Matt Creamer recently reported on AdAge.com that "slightly more than 1% of fans of the biggest brands on Facebook are actually engaging with the brands, according to a study from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, an Australia-based marketing think tank that counts Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and other major advertisers as its supporters." The study used one of Facebook's own metrics, People Talking About This. As Matt explained, that is the "running count of likes, posts, comments, tags, shares and other ways a user of the social network can interact with branded pages."
Matt quoted self-described Facebook advocate Karen Nelson-Field, senior research associate at the institute, on that 1% statistic: "I don't think it's a bad thing. People need to understand what [Facebook] can do for a brand and what it can't do. It doesn't really differ from mass media. It's great to get decent reach, but to change the way people interact with a brand overnight is just unrealistic."