Big Talk. Small Acts

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If you’re going to do anything in Marketing, is it more important to focus on "how many?" people you put your message in front of or "who?" you put your message in front of?

You can see this as the classic "quantity over quality" debate or you can look at it as "big vs. small," however you slice it, it’s hard to argue that brands can now get major results through many small (and sometimes minimal) acts. There are winning business cases (in fact, more than you may think) around every corner. A cause for celebration if you dabble in the Social Media space (we like to claim those small victories as our own).

But, Social Media alone will not save you.

While some small brands can do many small things that achieve incremental results, the bigger brands tend to be doing a whole lot more of the the little things while pushing their weight around if something clicks. One example of this would be the indie-turned Paramount Pictures scareflick, Paranormal Activity. Leveraging many of the Social Media platforms (from Twitter and YouTube to Eventful) the movie had an initial groundswell that enabled Paramount to kick marketing dollars into additional online spaces (and traditional mass media ones too) and slowly push it to become the blockbuster that it became.

It works for soda too.

Coca-Cola is one of the biggest brands on Facebook to no fault of their own. Their Facebook page managed to pull in well over a million followers almost overnight without their intervention. It was a consumer generated fan page that felt much more like a fan club for lovers of all things Coke instead of a corporate-driven initiative to cram Coke into every possible marketing corner.

How did they do it? Can anybody do it?

They didn’t do it by acting small. It was done because there was a passionate few people who cared about those two brands. Those people cared enough to put their own reputations on the line and invested their own time (and money and effort) to help spread the good word. These brands were smart in terms of capitalizing on these evangelists. They empowered and rewarded them. They made these people feel special. When people feel special, they will do (almost) anything and everything to keep that feeling alive.

Brand still acts big because most people act small.

If Social Media has taught us anything, it’s that people love these real interactions between real human beings. And, as those relationships grow, those who are interested can play, connect and contribute to the brands that matter most to them. That’s no small feat. This week, Greg Verdino (one of the business associates of Joseph Jaffe over at Powered and a long-time friend of Six Pixels of Separation) is launching his debut business book, microMARKETING – Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small, by inviting Bloggers (like me) to review one chapter of his book. Chapter #2 is called, Thinking And Acting Small, and It features a much more in-depth look at how both Paranormal Activity and Coca-Cola managed to leverage many small things (and passionate people) to build their brands and audience. Much like the clever title of Seth Godin‘s excellent business book, Small Is The New Big (which was a compilation of his Blog posts), Verdino has done a fine job of dissecting how those little 140-character tweets and Facebook status updates can truly add up to something we have never seen by Marketing via traditional advertising channels.

Small is big.

The challenge of acting small is that you run the risk of becoming of wildly successful. While that may sound strange or anathema (read that previous sentence over again), consider this: you have to be ready for success and you have to be ready to scale. Coca-Cola and Paramount have the deep pockets and resources to turn a spark into a brushfire and that brushfire into an inferno. Doing many small things is a brilliant way to test your market and gauge the interest of your consumers (and how rabid they may become), but ask yourself this:

What if it really works? Can you scale? Can you convert it into something more than a passing fad in a stream of constant tweets?


  1. This is truly a fascinating post. There are often posts about the whats and hows to get ahead with social business on social media, but this is a very concise, easy to understand article which allows you to understand with good examples the power of thinking cleverly using social media.
    Wonderfully written.

  2. This seems to dovetail (at least in my mind) with the idea I had this morning for a post I’ll write in an hour or so. Working with the large and small nonprofits my agency does, I encounter a large number of them that either do not have the resources to be multi-channel in their efforts or do not have the true interest to be multi-channel in their efforts. On the resources side, there’s always the question then of “Are we/you putting our dollars and time where they are most effective?” On the interest side, it’s more simply “Is the goal effectiveness of marketing and fundraising efforts or our own comfort when doing those things?”
    Oftentimes, when we approach a foreign channel such as social media, it can appear insurmountable. “I don’t have the time,” “It’s too confusing,” “It’s not rights for us,” etc. When in reality as you say, it can be the small steps and the small acts that get us to our goals. IF we make it there though, will we have planned, or at least tried to plan, for what to do next? Or, will we approach again another seemingly foreign and insurmountable task? …I guess, the difficult questions and choices never cease.
    I’m backlogged on my reading at the moment, but on your recommendation, I will pick up Greg’s book when I catch up soon.

  3. Mitch, you’ve smacked the nail right on the head for me and my small businesses. My single greatest challenge now lies in the systematizing of their successes(ironically big and small). The toughest issues so far lie within creating a
    “system” for guest experience and scaling my personal connection with my customers.
    But yes, I read that line three times and wholeheartedly agree “The challenge of acting small is that you run the risk of becoming of wildly successful.”
    Being ready is really tough and requires some serious forward thinking while you’re trying to grow a small small business.
    Thanks Mitch.

  4. I really enjoyed this post and will definitely check out Greg Verdino’s book. I attended a seminar last week that promised everything I needed to know about social media all for the low price of $1500. People bought into it which was depressing. In life, we don’t make our friends using quick hits so why do we think that we find customers using cheap, quick hits? Oh sure, gimmicks attract people but lasting relationships require work.
    Thank you!

  5. Great point Mitch…but to your sentence “It was done because there was a passionate few people who cared about those two brands”…I think a lot of small to mid-size companies want to know how they get those brand evangelists to begin with…

  6. Mitch – great write up. In general, I love your “six things” approach (obviously not accidental given the title of your book). It’s such a nice way to get short, actionable ideas. Keep on keepin’ on!

  7. It’s about two things:
    1. Priority. Making sure that you’re doing the really important stuff first and foremost.
    2. Strategy. Knowing why you’re doing things and how you’re going to make it happen.
    Otherwise, a lot of this stuff will feel much more like a distraction than anything else.

  8. A lot of brands will fail at “wildly successful.” In fact, we see it daily with individuals and their hundreds of thousands of followers. It falls flat on the authenticity and there’s very little they can do to scale.

  9. I’m sure $1500 will tell you everything you need to know about Social Media (heck, my book will that for less that $30 or you can just read the Blog archives here for free)… it’s the doing it… and doing it well that’s the real work.

  10. Hah! That is not so encouraging. How about examples of those that do it well? Those that can remain true to themselves or their product, or at least the ideals and/or concept that made them great and manage to successfully scale their success. I’m guessing that you may have seen more examples of this than I have.

  11. Mitch – Thanks so much. Your opinion means a lot to me so I’m honored by your kind words and grateful for the thoughts you’ve added in your riff on the themes in Chapter 2. Thanks for your support here and in print. I am happy to return the favor anytime. G

  12. Definitely. Taking the approach of “I don’t have time for this” or “It’s not what pays the bills” is like sticking your head in the sand if the data shows you that you need to make time for it and it is what could pay more of the bills.

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