Business Advice

Rack ’em high, sell ’em cheap? Or how Twitter is like toilet roll…


While donating an answer to Quora, I was floored by a single thought.

There are fast paced social networks, and slow paced social networks.

Why did I never appreciate this fact in those terms before?

I won’t admit to being any kind of social media expert. Not in the slightest. I know my way around Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Quora and so on. But every time I think I’ve got a handle on what’s going on, something (or someone) comes along to upset the apple cart.

So I struggle. Daily. Not just generating the content, but devouring it as well (because there’s just so damn much of it).

So this is why today’s thought feels so profound.

There’s a comparison to be made between social media and FMCG/CPG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods / Consumer Packaged Goods – toilet roll, soft drinks, high churn low value stock) goods. Check out this statement from the oracle of all knowledge, Wikipedia:

Though the absolute profit made on FMCG products is relatively small, they generally sell in large quantities, so the cumulative profit on such products can be substantial.

That’s Twitter. To a T (to coin a phrase).

A single Tweet doesn’t make a sale or a revolution. Building a relationship over time through constant, high quality interactions makes sales and drives revolution.

Each Tweet contributes to the greater whole, but is unlikely to set the platform on fire.

Twitter is a Fast Paced Social Platform.

Users might search for specific terms or scroll back a few hours, but they’re unlikely to be delving into the mists of time for some juicy content.

Once the Tweet is out there, it’s gone. And if your audience are asleep while you Tweet, they’ll probably miss it completely.

The other side of the coin is the Slow Paced Social Platform.

LinkedIn, Quora and blogs are Slow Paced Social Platforms.

They all have long tails where history is accumulated, responses given with consideration and in longhand (few LOL, RT, MT, or b/c here). They’re searchable back to the first time a user posted.

These platforms give us the opportunity to engage at a different, less frenetic pace.

And because we can engage differently, we use them differently. We use these platforms more deeply than FPSPs.

This blog is a SPSP. Looking at my traffic, people are accessing content I wrote well over a year ago. The search terms used cover everything from yesterday’s post to one of my least popular (at the time) advertising rants.

But it’s incremental. Slowly slowly, not quickly quickly.

In fact, the slowest version of a SPSP I can think of is the Letters to The Editor page in the local newspaper, where debates can rage sequentially for months at a time. That’s really slow…

SPSPs build long term value for the users where the following is built on a verifiable track record of quality content. FPSPs build immediate short term value, and the value of the information is limited to what’s current. Yes, someone might build up a following based on their long-term use of the platform, but people will decide to follow (or not) based on the most recent offerings – and sometimes just those posted in the last hour.

Facebook and Google+ somehow manage to span the divide between SPSPs and FPSPs. They are both immediate, yet open for longer form discussion and debate (with growing historical context).

However, from using each platform, I suspect that Facebook is truly an FPSP while Google+ is a SPSP.

There will be social media experts out there either disagreeing with me or wondering why it’s taken me the best part of two years to realise that Twitter is more like toilet roll while LinkedIn is a family sofa.

But I won’t apologise. It’s taken me time to come around to this way of thinking, and I’m glad it has in a way.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always known that the platforms needed to be different, and handled differently. That I needed to have a different content strategy for each one.

But now I’ve got a framework to really build that strategy on.

In a moment, I have gained a new understanding of how I need to use all of the different platforms I’m on, taking into account their individual characteristics.

More than that, I’ve found a new understanding of the content I need to be using on each platform.

And that’s exciting.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my analogy? Am I way off or right on? How do you treat the different platforms?

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4 thoughts on “Rack ’em high, sell ’em cheap? Or how Twitter is like toilet roll…

  1. The question i always have with such findings is what do we do with it, now that we know this:-)? but in this case its easy, pace the flow of your message/discussion over time for SMSP, go for unilateral strikes/one sentence headlines with FMSP.

    But of course its never that straightforward, especially when dealing with markets under formation. With the massive influx of new users to social media sites such as LI, whose behaviour / usage patterns resemble more FM and not SM and thus influences the way the group works.

    I guess it all depends whom you connect with and what their habits are, if you want a fair chance at reaching them socially.

    • I agree, Marco. I’m currently working on some practical applications for this understanding!

      Each platform (apart from Twitter) has the ability to develop as SPSP or FPSP depending on the user requirements. LI might be able to straddle the two to some degree with its Twitter like messaging feature.

      However, I am thinking that it’s the stated required output (rather than the input) from the user that will eventually define the platform properties. If a user wants deeper engagement, the platform will probably become SPSP. If dip-in, dip-out, more FPSP I suspect…

  2. Pingback: Are you wasting time on Twitter? «

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