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The Social Media Relationship Bell Curve

By April 2, 2010 8 Comments

It’s Friday, so naturally I want to share a theory that I’ve been kicking around upstairs for the past week: The Social Media Relationship Bell Curve.

A majoritiy of time needs to be spent building relationships in social media


Let’s say that we have a new product launch in six months and we want to “leverage social media” to get the word out. The Social Media Relationship Bell Curve illustrates the two sets of time within such a scenario, while showing where and for how long time needs to be spent.

project timeline If we have six months to product launch, then the X axis represents zero to six months in one week chunks

budgeted time Can not exceed the number of dedicated to social media labor hours within the project timeline

Three Phases

Within the hypothetical six month period prior to product launch, the Social Media Relationship Bell Curve shows that we will have to perform three tasks:

mapping The idea of mapping out the network of blogs for a specific vertical and keyword. With automated tools, this should take up very little budgeted and project timeline time.

relationship building The majority of time “leveraging social media” should be spent finding commonalities with influencers within verticals of interest, to establish real relationships with them.

pitching Toward the end of the project timeline, when the product is nearing completion, the fruits of the relationship building shall attempt to be harvested with an ask to all relationships to help spread product awareness far and wide within the targeted vertical(s).


  • Peter Kim says:

    Makes sense – next step is maintaining/managing the new relationships. New curve?

  • Tim Hayden says:

    I agree with Peter that a sustaining/nurturing “curve” may be in order for those new and discovered relationships along the way. As well, I'm still a big believer in a widespread outbound effort through social channels (not carpet bomb-mass advertising) that pulls would-be influencers from the bottom and sides of your known influencer network (again, “new and discovered” relationships are out there).

  • nickhuhn says:

    Nice approach, Hallicious. I'm with Pete and Tim… I really think that this graph, like relationship building in real life, is not linear. Maybe it should be a reinforcing circular motion like an upward spiral alternating between all three elements you defined… Good food for thought man; thanks for sharing.

  • Hallicious says:

    My first thought would be a power curve because 80% of the “hard work” is front loaded in A. trying to find like minded people, B. trying to get their attention and C. trying to find other interest points in common so that the relationship doesn't just revolve around talking shop.

    Once A, B and C are done, then it's a matter of maintenance over time and social tools, like Twitter lists and Blog readers, make that process somewhat easy/automated… symbolized by the curve's rapid approach toward zero effort. 😉

  • Hallicious says:

    Totally agree, Tim. I really like the contrast between getting in front of 100,000 people with a 1% conversion rate vs. getting in front of 1,000 people with a 100% conversion rate.

    There is a lot of waste in the former and more effort required for the latter, so I guess it just comes down to how companies want to spend their money.

  • Hallicious says:

    The project manager in me made this curve as a depiction of how social media relates to a product launch. I get asked to define what I do a lot, go figure, so in that context I think that the bell curve works to illustrate the disparity in time associated with “leveraging social media” throughout the timeline of a new product launch. (sidenote: everyone I talk to wants to “leverage social media” and I find that expression to be funny, thus the sarcasm/quotes)

    But I think that you're all right on about the relationship building aspect of the curve needing it's own visual, because as you said building relationships is not linear.

    Thanks Nick. 🙂

  • Just musing here … I think that this makes really good sense in the context of A launch of A product … but Peter's comment makes me wonder what the bell curve looks like over a SERIES of products, each with launches and updates … I am envisioning a series of overlapping but ever-larger curves, reflecting the fact that you're going to be (hypothetically) growing your network of relationships each time. There's something important here for businesses to understand – think you're on to something, but that it needs to be expanded a little. Good stuff!

  • nickhuhn says:

    Dude I can empathize with the “leverage social media” chicanery more than you can imagine – have you followed my career these last few years? 😉 I use the _iceberg_ simile a lot: the stuff you see above the waterline is often supported by 90% or so of the total effort below the surface. A normal distribution can be appropriate in that case too, though I think the real trick is the iterative, self-reinforcing activities that keep the iceberg afloat.

    In short, I firmly believe that the LOE required to build or reinforce relationships is an order of magnitude higher than the effort it takes to pitch or map. The fun part is convincing others of that. Keep at it 🙂