A number of people have picked up on the scalability issue of social media programs which I mentioned a while back. Some questioned the need for super large communities, while others wondered about the viability of those communities.
Let me take a few minutes to expand on my views around scalability – as I think this is a very important topic.
Scalability does not necessarily mean having large number of people in your community, or a super large number of bloggers in a social media outreach program. Having programs with the right scale means that they impact your business in significant and measurable ways. Sometimes you can achieve that with small crowds, sometimes not.
Take an influencer program in customer support for example. Comcast can do with 5-10 people on twitter what thousands of people in the call center cannot. Or take a new product innovation initiative. You can get significant customer insights with communities that range in the few hundreds. Of course I would argue that you would get better results with larger communities if you have thousands of customers, but the point is that you can do it. And then there are also those cases where you will need hundreds of thousands or millions of people in order to move the needle – especially in communities which are focused on increasing word-of-mouth, those that are meant for customer support, and even in certain developer communities.
The issue with scalability is not a people issue – it is one of business results. You want to make sure that the results you are getting are going to make a significant impact on your business. If you have 600,000,000 people visiting your stores every year and you try a social media program that will increase that traffic through word of mouth – having a target of a 0.1% increase in traffic means getting 600,000 additional visits. You won’t get that with a community of 10,000 people. Now if that same company is trying to get feedback on how to improve the store experience so that customers stay longer and buy more, they could do that with 10,000 people.
Again, scalability is not a people issue – it’s a business impact issue.