The Balance Act

Photo cred: DirkJan Ranzijn

Here’s a thought I’ve been struggling with lately…

It’s not all about community, relationships and engagement.  To focus only on these things was naive and idealistic.  These things are vital in the long-run, but in terms of building a large userbase (a.k.a. making money).  In order to scale, these ideals sometimes have to take a backseat to impersonal, systemic approaches.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with that thought…hence me struggling with having it.  As if they were reading my mind, both Chris Brogan and Dave Fleet recently shared relevant thoughts on their blogs to get me thinking even more.  Then to top it off today, I enjoyed an extremely interesting presentation by Gabriel Weinberg (Scribnia’s Dreamit mentor). He shared his story of how he found success by doing nothing in terms of human engagement or community building, but rather by developing a deep and thorough understanding of the system.

I know different approaches work for different situations, but I’m quickly coming to the realization that these social media concepts do not scale, at least not at first. We get caught up on the “success stories” of companies that have done nothing in terms of marketing, and have grown solely from word of mouth.  While nice to think about, to plan the same for yourself is usually idealistic and unreasonable.

So much focus have been put on these tools lately, and I pretty much soaked it all in, not quite seeing the limitations…understanding, but not quite grasping the concept of breaking down silos, as Beth Harte would explain.

I’m learning that the only thing that really matters in the end is numbers…number of users, of customers, of traffic.  Regardless of how you get there, that’s the game.  These are harsh realizations but realizations nonetheless.

So I guess in the end, all you can hope for is a balance. I will never sacrifice my passion for community building and human engagement, but it’s looking like there’s a lot more to it.

I’m sure many of you already know this, so help me through this one…what are your thoughts?

6 thoughts on “The Balance Act

  1. Perfect. You can’t have a person who only cares about a community be your community manager. However, you can’t have a marketing person who only cares about marketing be your community manager either.

    It’s maintaining that balance and effectively navigating through both channels that will lead to success.

  2. A business manager’s only concern may be numbers, but your customers (his/her customers) don’t give two sh*ts about numbers.

    So the balance is there: Yes, you work for a business and the business focuses on numbers but… your business works for customers. Ultimately, THEY are the boss. Not the CEO, not even the shareholders. The Customers. And your customers judge you on everything BUT numbers.

    So find that balance in essentially serving two masters. If they both understand the previous paragraph, that balance is a non-issue. It just works. If however you work for a company whose leadership doesn’t understand that the customer is king (they have the cash, therefore they have the power), then that balance can be a lot tougher to arrive at. 😉

  3. In every community building effort there is a marketing opportunity and in every marketing effort there is a community building opportunity. The balance you are looking for does not exist except in the mind of the consumer and obviously that is defined as uniquely as the consumers you attract and engage with. But that’s the nature of simply being social isn’t it?

    I use a saying with my clients when talking about helping their restaurants grow; You build volume one guest at a time”. The same holds true for finding your balance. You find it one engagement at a time.

  4. I believe your right. It doesn’t matter how the message is transmitted, but if only a few people know then only a few people can become customers. It is all about increasing the numbers.

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