Working with big numbers in marketing has taught me something extraordinary: In this big data world of ours, it’s the small numbers that matter.
In online marketing, we gravitate towards big numbers. Size matters and the bigger, the better. We talk a big talk when it comes to forging relationships and building trust, but when it comes down to it, we need to reach a critical mass of people to keep our jobs. The internet has changed the game of marketing in profound ways1, but not when it comes to big numbers. The web has made us more, not less, focused on big data, analytics, and metrics — myself included. Heck, I even moved to New York to help establish a data-driven digital agency a few years ago.
As marketers, we tend to inflate the world. We talk about how many views, shares, or likes a piece of content has gotten. 100,000,000 views on Youtube for a great song, with a great video, performed by a celebrity artist? It happens all the time these days. However, if you want your message to go viral, you should rather be searching for a number that’s as low as possible:
Cycle time (time between being “infected” and “infecting” someone else).
For a piece of content to go viral, it needs to convert at a decent level and the population size must be able to sustain its exposure, sure. But from a mathematical perspective, what really matters, is cycle time. And the smaller the number for cycle time, the better. If you start to look for them, you will see these small numbers everywhere. And one might wonder if the most powerful number is the power of one?
The French poet Victor Hugo (1802-1885) said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” As a professional communicator in a world full of big numbers, you must believe that one single person can change everything and that each and every person you reach could be that one. You must have faith that a single message, meme, or idea can change everything. And that every action has the potential to ignite a butterfly effect beyond the limits of our imagination.
Contrary to popular belief, online marketing simply isn’t all about the big numbers.
- See also The Inbound Marketing Paradigm.