I’m not lazy, but today I’m going to review a blog post that I read this morning that summarizes an issue I’ve been thinking for a long time regarding media and numbers in the Internet age. The post is by Neil Perkin on his blog “Only Dead Fish”. I can’t recommend enough that you follow Neil on Twitter (@neilperkin), read his blog or subscribe to his “Weekly Fish Food” e-mail.
What Neil does so well in this post is to get under the skin of the problem of mass media in an Internet age and why our thinking is so often wrong about this. We were all brought up in a mass media world and therefore look for large scale and numbers as a sign of success. We transfer this same thinking to the Web by looking at the scale of the Web and assuming that this is the kind of numbers we should be attracting. This is where the problem of “viral videos” comes in when we assume that a video’s only success is when it breaks a magical view number in the millions.
Perkin counters this very ingrained thinking by pointing out that the Web is very much about “subsets of humans interacting”. Viewed from this perspective we can start thinking about the power of the web as being more about personalization and engagement among active participants. This approach, thinking small and effective, is really at the core of how the Web and Social Media communicates and succeeds. The great part about it is that if we do start by thinking small and smart, getting big and viral is just the icing on the cake.
It’s very hard for us to back away from our traditional world of mass reach and frequency and its harder for our clients as well. However, social media is teaching us on a daily basis that an engaged follower or a community of evangelists often have a greater power than mass reach and when these are in place they can make mass reach even more effective.