Social Media As Scalable Intimacy

by Nathan W. Burke on January 12, 2009

Mike Troiano has a new blog and idea called “Scalable Intimacy“, which describes the potential of social media to create real, measurable value for brands. From his manifesto:

Marketing = Scale + Mediocrity

Let’s face it folks… marketing has become what HR used to be, before somebody figured out we were spending more money on people than on anything else. It’s the place where arty intellectuals can travel, interact with like-minded pretty faces over cocktails, and hide from the accountability that has transformed every other corner of the 21st century corporation. Most marketing people are mediocre. Most marketing is the sexy part of sales without the pesky accountability, and it is worthless. Harsh, perhaps, but you know it’s true.


Social media presents the path of Marketing back to respectability. It is the path back to responsibility for actual Sales; to being the people within a company who truly understand the who, what, where and why of current and prospective customers. It presents an opportunity for direct access to the people outside the company whom we now know control its brand, its fortune, and its fate.

Social Media = Scalable Intimacy

Social media is not about CPM. It is about investing in relationships that create more measureable economic value than they cost. It is about engaging with the individual people who collectively decide whether to buy or not buy your product, like it or dislike it, recommend it or trash it, shape it or ignore it.

The term really appeals to me: Scalable Intimacy. When I hear the term, the word “intimacy” jumps out at me. It really does a great job at describing the feeling associated with the relationships we have with other people through the tools we collectively call social media. Though I’ve never met the majority of the people I talk to using twitter or the comments on my blogs, I feel like I actually know them and have some kind of friendship.

Now, I’m just a person. But if I were a brand manager, I would definitely want to find a way to replicate this “intimacy” between my brand and the people out there. That’s where the “scalable” part comes in. How can a company create scalable intimacy? How can they keep all the warm and familiar goodness of one-to-one communication while talking to a large audience?

I have two examples of the very beginning of scalable intimacy. The first is Dell Computer. What started off as one person monitoring and engaging with customers on twitter has turned into a 28 person team of Dell employees covering every one of Dell’s product lines. Mention something about Dell on twitter, and I’d be willing to bet you’ll get a response.

The second example is Scott Monty at Ford. Scott is the head of social media at Ford, and he’s an animal. He’s all over twitter, he’s got 3 blogs, he’s podcasting, youtubing, you name it, he’s there. Got a question about Ford? He’s got an answer. Have a question you want to ask Ford’s CEO publicly? Done. He’s turned to twitter and asked if anyone had any questions for Alan Mulally. Of course, twitter users had questions about Ford’s strategy, the bailout, etc. And Mulally didn’t shy away from any question.

These are just two examples of companies trying to scale intimacy using social media tools. I’d love to hear other examples. I think the idea of scalable intimacy is still in its infancy, but this is where marketing is headed. I urge you to read the rest of Mike’s Manifesto here.

  • Thanks, Nathan. You get it exactly, as usual.

Previous post:

Next post: