Convincing small business folk to get on board with social media is akin to asking a four-year-old to watch paint dry. It's nice to look at, for a few minutes, until boredom sets in and the child asks if he can go outside and play. Outside is where the action is. There's stuff to do. People to see. Places to go.

And, like watching paint dry, we watch what's happening on the public time line and conclude that not a lot is going on. Well, unless you're a marketer in which case you're immediately drawn to the incestuous sharing of cutting edge information ... er ... well ...

Never mind.

It's fun to be a skeptic though because it makes you sound really smart, like you know something no one else does--something everyone else is just too dumb to comprehend. For example, when TechCrunch told us that that 80% of the "people" on twitter are essentially
squatters, the neo-web pundits gave a collectively cynical "duh!" And the commenters over at Shoemoney Blog seem to think this is indicative of how useless twitter really is. That hey,
they were right all along. It's like one big I-told-you-so love-in over there.

Yet if you read the entire TechCrunch article, you're reminded that twitter is no different than any other web media. For example, about 10% of any forum membership actually participates in the discussion, and that's on a good day. Or, how many of you grabbed a MySpace ID but never used it? Maybe it was intentional (to protect a company brand) or maybe it wasn't (I hate MySpace).

The TechCrunch writer closes the article by saying that:   

"Twitter is no different than any other form of social media. A small fraction of users produce the overwhelming amount of content, even if it is just 140 characters at a time. Everyone else just drinks from the stream."
It's the old 80-20 rule. And it's not really news. The biggest returns result from a relatively small amount of input or, in this case, a small handful of users. Moreover, no one ever said you had to participate (generate content) to get something out of social media. In fact, cruising around a forum without saying a darned thing can be quite informative. Some even call it research.

I feel like a broken record repeating this, but it's not sinking in: you get what you give. And if you don't want to give, that's okay. Just don't complain about what others are doing or not doing. Be quiet and enjoy the show.

So, how are you using twitter? And if you're not using it, what are you complaining about?
June 20, 2009

Karri Flatla is a business graduate of the University of Lethbridge and principal of snap! virtual associates inc., a virtual consulting firm providing business communications and Internet marketing services to the progressive entrepreneur. Karri also produces Outsmart, the email newsletter for small business with big purpose. Visit for more information. Click to follow Karri on Twitter.


It is amazing, but 80/20 applies in just about every situation. The last line of the article gave me a chuckle. Greg

@Greg - glad I made you smile :)


You have a very valid point. It isn't just twitter - its everything. The small business owners are constantly wondering why they aren't making the big bucks, but essentially its because they have what I like to call "short attention spans." This is what I mean - they go out and they hear about some explosive marketing tactic - they stop everything and they lean on it really hard. But this is only for a short period of time then the just figure either 1) it doesn't work or 2) they don't know how to do it correctly - so they get discouraged. Discouraged just long enough to run over to the next major marketing tactic and do it again.

Unfortunately, these people need to wise up and give things a chance. But, like you said, you "get out what you put in." And sometimes, you need to be willing to stick in for the long haul. However, please don't get me wrong. A savvy marketer needs to learn how to recognize early stages of failure so some special technique doesn't bleed them dry. But they still need to learn to give things a chance.

Great post - I agree 110%...

Great perspective!

Having been in this search media (now social) space for many years, most articles are re-dos of past articles from someone else ...but this is fresh and interesting - thank you for that.

One commenter mentioned the explosive marketing tactic - we see this all the time. Just become a member of SEMPO and review the companies asking for search help.

"I want to be in the top 10 for the keyword 'cancer' "

yea, good luck with your 3 month old site built entirely in a flash template...

Social media is VERY powerful, but unlike other, earlier web technologies, it's more a "people-based" medium that is DRIVEN by technology. This makes it harder to cheat the system.

To be successful in social, at least at this stage in the game, requires constant attention - something business owners don't really want to participate in because of the time consumption, but also won't hire for because they aren't sure it's worth it.

Social success is built on network trust - trust must be earned - and this concept isn't going away, so business owners need to recognize that the landscape is changing.

We see this everyday in the advertising world. Shotgun blast messages to wide demographic audiences is an old school tactic now - today it's about accountability, audience filtering and measurable ROI.

Of course, as we all learned with PPC, Facebook advertising and the like, this measurable ROI, while unique to online, can also backfire when the results appear poor to the client.

If a client sees their ad on TV or hears it on the radio, or sees it in a magazine, they feel good and since there is no real reliable way to track these vehicles, success can be ambiguous; but when a client sees that only 3.04% of clicks in PPC are converting, they believe that appears small.

...and 3.04% conversion rate is pretty good.

Social media represents what in sales is known as a slow close. You may eventually get business but it will take time and effort. People want results now. They are focused on the immediate and often lack a long term vision and they abandon their marketing efforts.

I prefer to fish in the smaller social media ponds where I might be a big fish in a small pond rather than be a tiny fish swimming in an ocean.

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.

Search Engine Guide > Karri Flatla > The 80-20 Rule Applies to Twitter ... So?