The 500 question

Question: Which is more valuable to you?  500 visitors to your web site, 500 visitors to your blog (with and without RSS), 500 email contacts, 500 Facebook fans or 500 Twitter followers?

I’ve been kicking this question around for several months, particularly after spending most of the past year trying to keep up with what’s happening in social media.  I’ve talked to a few people in and out of the industry, read more than my fair share of articles and have mostly (some what, leaning towards, possibly) come to the conclusion that the 500 Facebook users are the most wanted (for the moment).

There are lots of caveats to that choice and it depends heavily on what you’re marketing and your audience.  For example, the marketing of consumer goods is much more accessible to social media than say widgets for an industrial manufacturing machine.  That’s not to say you can’t use these tools to market widgets, but rather you should not expect a social media audience for widgets to exist (as yet).

I should also state that I’m not declaring that you only target one of these interfaces (in this case Facebook).  I’m simply searching for opinions on the question with some leanings towards where I might concentrate my limited resources.  Ideally, I think we would all agree that a proper marketing campaign should use all of these interfaces in a unified campaign.

As a side note, let me state that I fully recognize everyone will have a different perspective on this.  Mine is based on the fact that the company I work for does not sell directly to the consumer. We make a product that is a major component in products manufactured by other companies for the consumer market.  The product is a recognizable brand name, even though it’s only a component of the end products.  In addition, the end products are in a handful of distinct markets, each with its own set of demographics.

Our primary marketing target is the consumer.

The closest analogy might be BASF, who markets themselves as “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy; we make a lot of the products you buy better!”


The problem with a web site is that the users must come to you. Unless they are specifically thinking about your brand or product, what is the call-to-action to get them to visit your site on a returnable basis? What would trigger the action?

A blog is no better than a web site, unless the user is subscribed to the blog via a RSS feed.  An update to the feed would generate a call-to-action.  I’d would rate the RSS user high on the scale of desirability simply because so many users still have no clue about RSS i.e. if they figured it out then there is definitely a desire to stay up-to-date on your product.  The downside of RSS, as I have already stated, is so few people understand it and thus the audience is limited.

I have read from several sources (Jakob Nielsen for one) that an email campaign is still one of best marketing tools available.  I don’t necessarily disagree, but I would point out a couple of issues that have burned me in the past.  First are spam filters in all there various flavors.  Some times it seems like you’re fighting an uphill battle to deliver an email to someone, particularly those users who block every email until its approved for delivery.

Second, users seem to have a low tolerance of how often you can contact them via email.   It doesn’t take too many emails before they have unsubscribed (or replied to complain in not so nice terms).

Twitter is still a conundrum for many users.  Even I have a hard time explaining it.  It seems to be either something you get or you don’t (and many users don’t).

The major issue I have with Twitter is that most users jump in-and-out of Twitter all day long so they do not always read every tweet that may be directed their way i.e. tweets get missed.  Some people address this by tweeting the same topic multiple times per day (partly for this issue and partly to address time zone issues).

The minor issue is the 140-character limit of tweets.  It can sometimes be difficult to write a call-to-action in 140-characters and leave enough room for a link and retweeting.

Facebook.  350 million users and growing.  That alone is enough to make you pay attention.  However, what makes Facebook so valuable is the ability to post something to your fan page fairly often (one or twice a day) and not tick off your fan base.  You certainly can’t do that with email.  And each one of those posts is another eyeball contact with your users (and potential call-to-action).  I should also mention the interface, which incorporates photos, video, etc. in the fan page (as opposed to Twitter where the user must click on links to take them elsewhere).  The fan page is really a self-contained marketing bonanza.

Facebook also has a similar issue to Twitter, particularly with users with large numbers of friends or users who are fans of many pages.  Posts can be overlooked.  Where Facebook beats Twitter on this issue is with posts of photos or videos.  Facebook provides a thumbnail, which is something that might catch the eye vs. Twitter, which only offers a link.

That’s my thinking… rambling and incomplete as it is.  So what’s yours?

p.s. For those of you thinking that I’m clueless, an idiot or worse, that’s fine.  I generalized the hell out of some of reasoning, but if I hadn’t this piece would been nothing more than a list of caveats.  I would also point you again to my side note that tries to explain my perspective. Someone with an ecommerce site or someone with a service site will have a totally different perspective… and I fully recognize that.

p.s.s. I tried to get Julie to write this for me, seeing that she’s so well-known, well-liked and knows her nouns from her verbs, but unless its about “link building” or can some how reference Bryan Ferry or Adam Ant, she can’t be bothered. Maybe, if I ask nicely and tell her how stylish her new ALDO shoes look, she might offer some commentary.

~ by Genevieve on 2009.12.27.

One Response to “The 500 question”

  1. Well done!! I think you’ve broken this down very well actually, and you’re right…if I can’t work Ferry in, I can’t be arsed.

    Now, I will say that recently I tried to do a social media campaign for a client and it simply did not work, period. The niche I was working in just doesn’t have social media followers yet. Without going into graphic details which will lead people to say “well you didn’t do it right” I will say that after doing more research, we did find that the target market had not discovered social media. Later, perhaps, a social media campaign will work.

    Personally, I am most likely to be manipulated in a marketing fashion by Twitter or emails.

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