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April 29, 2009


The Social Media Power Scale Theory

by Anthony Verre

Can Just Anyone Jump Into Social Media and Make An Impact?

Social Media Theory

In theory, yes. In theory, anyone could create an account on any one of the social media platforms out there (take your pick: Digg, Reddit, Mixx, Sphinn, Newsvine, Twitter, etc) and if your content was intriguing and unique enough, the social community would “vote” you to front page exposure.

Social Media Reality

The fact is, the social media theoretical model, like the American Dream, only works out less than 1% of the time. Essentially, all the stars align, and with a stroke of great timing and luck, an “average joe” hits it big.  Lotto.

Right. So, the reality of social media, is not all that much different from actual social life. There are power-users and tight cliques that dominate each individual sphere, and on occasion, “cross-penetrate” into other spheres with more influence than other users.

There’s a quote from one of my favorite poems by the late Bill Matthews, “The Penalty for Bigamy is Two Wives” that aptly puts the situation in perspective for me:

I have a friend who writes poems who says he really wants to be a rock star- the high-heeled boots, the hand-held mike, the glare of underpants in the front row, the whole package.

You can’t serve two masters. There’s the reality of what you are and where your talents already lie and the image, the vision, of what you want to be. In social media’s case, the majority of us are simply “poets” with the aspiration to be power-users, or to be included in an influencing tight clique. We all want a taste of that social media stardom so badly, because being mundane is just that.  Mundane.

Social Media Penetration Diagram:

Social Media Users Penetration Diagram

Social Media Users Penetration Diagram

The Deck is Already Stacked Against You:

Unfortunately, that’s the truth. I know, it’s hard to believe.  It’s a tough pill to swallow. If you are just venturing into the world of social media for your brand, you need to set your expectations.  If your brand already has a large following outside of the social media world, then the chances are high that this will translate over to social media platforms and you’ll be granted access to “Power-User” status immediately.

And we’re talking about brands here: Starbucks, Coke, Dell, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Google, etc.  You were an authority before you arrived, and you’re an authority upon entry.  Mid-size brands are a coin-flip: it could either way. Revernce or Forgotten.  Small brands and individual users always start at the bottom.

Need proof? The Top Users on Two More Popular Social Media Platforms*

*Latest Data taken from each source

Top 25 Hot Topics

Top 25 Hot Topics

The Top 100 Twitter Users By Followers

The Top 100 Twitter Users By Followers

If you look at the data, analyze it, you’ll see that just across two of the more popular platforms (Sphinn being niche to the search marketing community) you’ll see two things:

  1. Multiple instances of the same user “Going Hot” on Sphinn, with multiple instances of the same source.
  2. The twitter list is dominated by celebrity status and accounts already with incredible brand recognition outside the social media platforms

Those with the most touch points within social media platforms already have a tremendous amount of touch points outside of it. While there is the possibility of passage into “tight cliques” and “power-users”, the passage is rare.


Knowing all this, why would new users even bother to enter the social media arena? They enter because they know their brand needs to be involved. They enter because it’s where the next brand recognition revenue streams are being generated.

What they need to understand are the expectations for themselves. Small business brands (and those with local notoriety) as well as up-and-coming individuals managing their own “name” as the brand, should set reasonable expectations for themselves.

An interesting study on Mashable indicates that 40% of new users continue to use Twitter after the first month. 60% bail.  Mashable asks the question of why? Simply put, the power-users and tight cliques dominate on Twitter, and the new users (small businesses/those new users without previous clout) don’t set the right expectations.

*Expect that you will be mostly ignored as a new user/small business.

Of course you can accumulate a small group of folks, those mostly familiar with you already, and disseminate your info. But, understand, it’s going to be that way for some time.

*Find a Tight Clique or a Power-User

Sorry. You have to be social.  It’s sort of implied, but, nonetheless, you have to put forth effort to “make nice”.  The perfect analogy is the “new kid” in school.  You don’t know anyone and they don’t know you.  Pencil in some face time with those you should get to know.

*Expect to be active with the community

Some platforms allow for you to create and account, populate with some extra ad materials lying around the office, and the sit back and wait. (*cough* MySpace and Facebook).

However, with most of the social media platforms that can generate brand recognition, trust, authority, and revenue, they require you be an active part in the community. You’ve got be willing to extend yourself in ways you might not be comfortable with: giving opinions, asking for opinions, and offering more than just short quips about products with a link.  Children and monkeys can do that for God’s Sake.

The Gist:

If you’ve made it this far, then I applaud you.  The gist is to understand that social media isn’t a magical place where you can be something your not. There are no alter egos here.  People see through that shit a mile away. Remember that you can’t serve two masters (and there’s a penalty for bigamy).

Make sure your expectations are in check, are based in reality. And that social media is no different from real networking. There are power-players who say “jump” and a whole empty-headed throng of people ask, “how high”. Yeah, it’s gross, but that’s the breaks. There are tight cliques, micro-gods of their chosen profession, in niche markets that hold major influence over a large majority. And that sucks too, but, again, that’s the breaks.

Be active, stay active, and you’ll find your place.

  1. danielgc2003
    Apr 30 2009

    I enjoyed the post. Thanks!

  2. Jo
    Apr 30 2009

    Another great post Tony!

  3. CGV
    Apr 30 2009

    “Children and monkeys can do that for God’s Sake.” –Nice

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