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The marketing world has been abuzz for the last few days over this whole “Guy Buys a Sponsored Tweet to Complain About British Airways” story, and as I’ve been reading about it, I came across a quote that really got me thinking:

With someone with six followers who’s on Twitter and who makes a nasty tweet, it’s completely irrelevant,

Now, because tone is lost in text, I’m not going to call this guy out by name, because I’m sure there was more context around this and I certainly don’t want to flame him, but the quote really drives to the heart of what I’m trying to say here and that is:

Even with all the talk about how we’ve embraced new media, people are still looking at the fundamental human elements of it in old-school terms and absolute numbers.

The scale of impressions, or the scale of followers is simply not the end game anymore. Sure it’s a part of the equation, but to give that idea so much stock is just ludicrous and totally misses the point of what makes a platform like Twitter so incredibly unique.

Ok, so you have six followers: Sally, Jimmy, Bobby, Yacko, Wacko, and Dot. You tweet out that you hate British Airways. One of those six “completely irrelevant” followers retweets you — not exactly sure how six human beings can be irrelevant, but that’s a different story for a different day. So anyway, Sally retweets this, and she has 39 followers, which is probably still “irrelevant” by our friend’s point of view. Now let’s say one of those 39 people happens to be her friend from college… who happens to be a showrunner on The Today Show. What if that happens? What if that showrunner brings the story to the producers and all of a sudden you’re leading off the next episode of The Today Show?

The thought that low numbers of human beings can somehow be irrelevant is ludicrous. The absolute number just doesn’t matter. You could have 100 followers, or 1,000,000 followers, all it takes is for one tweet to be noticed by one person, and the word-of-mouth plumbing that social networks are can take care of the rest.

And I’m not talking about going viral. You don’t need to go viral. You just need to get in front of the right person. Hell, you could have two followers… Oprah and Obama. Now all of a sudden that follower-count feels a lot less important, right? This absolute number thing is stupid. It’s very stupid. Every consumer’s word does matter because word of mouth is now at scale and has the infrastructure to go anywhere.

We need to start thinking about this in a very serious way. Because right now, we completely misunderstand it.