Why Smaller Can Be Better

Recently a social photo sharing site came online that limited friends to 50 people per user. The social network, called Path, launched under the premise that you can only really have a close relationship with 50 people. So it made you think deliberately about who those 50 people would be and limited you to only those people as your friends.

Obviously there was much criticism. In fact, we criticized it roundly on The BeanCast in episode 129. And while I'm not necessarily going back on my comments about a site that forces friend limits, the premise of being socially selective may actually be more valuable than we realize.

Too many of us have entered the new social networking sphere holding onto an old idea — the thought that success is always measured by the amount of response. We envision rating points and business reply cards and think that social media success needs to be measured in similar ways. Success is equated to scale. The more responses or retweets or likes, the more measurably successful our social program is. And certainly, this is one valid way to measure effectiveness. But the very idea of "being social" also provides another metric of success that is harder to measure — the quality of the engagement — and not only is this a valuable metric to have, it could also be desirable enough form the entire strategic objective of some programs to be built around it.

I'm taking part in the MarketingProfs Content Marketing Crash Course this week. (Yes, that's my affiliate link.) For my session on Wednesday, December 8th at 2pm ET, I'll be talking about content as a networking tool. And in preparing for this, I've come up with a way of explaining what I do with The BeanCast. In a nutshell: I have created the most exclusive and effective social network in advertising.

In fact, my social network is so exclusive that only about 96 people have ever been allowed to participate. But these 96 individuals represent the most influential voices in marketing, key members of the advertising press, ad bloggers of note and rising stars in marketing thinking. I've provided these people with a forum that exists nowhere else. There is simply no other place where people of such stature can meet and debate the latest news and trends in advertising on a regular basis. This forum provides not just an outward platform, but opportunities to meet and network with each other as well. Deals are struck, products are promoted and jobs are found.

Of course I can still look at The BeanCast as a show that a few thousand people listen to each week. But when I consider the smaller, more targeted audience of the participants, then I find the real value of what I am doing.

The BeanCast is not just about promotion and mass appeal. Frankly, the subject matter is far too niche for the mass side of the equation to ever value-justify the work that goes into the program. (It's 10-15 hours a week, by the way.) But the networking opportunities are invaluable. It's led to an entire chapter just about me in Content Rules. It's lead to numerous paid speaking and teaching engagements. It's lead to credibility that has landed me paying clients. And now, as I contemplate a few opportunities before me, it's possibly leading me to a whole new career path.

To make this simple, if I had measured the success of my content purely based on the number of show downloads, I would have killed the program long ago. But by always keeping my focus on the value of networking, I derived value beyond any hopes I had for my efforts.

So my advice today is that as you develop content, always start with understanding all the possible objectives. Because on the social web, engagement holds much more value than that of raw impressions.

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