Is “how many” still important?

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is a philosophical riddle that questions the relevance of something that occurs in the absence of a listener.

Fallen tree

We are challenged with this riddle with staggering regularity in life. The traditional marketing theory has been if you could yell loud enough, in order for every man, woman and child to hear you; that you would them be able to “sell” your wares to a percentage of those people. This is best demonstrated today with Super Bowl advertising, New York Times Square and other massively loud (and expensive) ad campaigns. We also see this in our Inbox when someone wants to wire us $1 million in cash if we only wire back $10,000 to them from our checking account. Those Nigerian marketers are not dumb at all. They are not targeting the 99% of the people that delete the obvious scam email; they are targeting the 1% of folks who actually think they will become rich if they follow those instructions. If the email is sent to 400,000 people, 4,000 people will respond x $10,000 or $4 million dollars profit to the Nigerian crime syndicate. 

Many Social Media specialists will tell you that it is not the number of fans/followers you have, it is your ability to share relevant information with them, providing them with a reason to follow.

But isn’t relevance a subjective thing for each one of us? For instance, if there is a twitter stream that only blasts-out discount coupon codes for Longaberger baskets, most folks without any affinity for baskets will not follow that twitter account. They will consider that channel as “spammy” and of no importance to them.

Now, if you DO happen to have an affinity to these particular baskets, it may be one of the most important and valuable twitter accounts you follow.

It is the challenge of the digital marketer to identify those that have an existing affinity for their product, and market to them. Additionally, there is opportunity to provide broad, direct marketing to a wide audience of followers who as of yet do not have such affinity.

So the next time you are in a forest and you hear a tree falling, ask yourself if you were actually paying attention to that tree, or did it only become relevant to you when you heard it crack above you head!

*This post was penned only after I pledged my undying gratitude and support to Mike Driehorst @mikedriehorst for providing the topic to me on a day where a socially relevant tree was not readily available. “Esse est percipi”


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