Linkedin and the "land of small numbers"
I was asked to be chair for SANS Boston 2016. The responsibilities include managing the marketing. I am a scientist and I try to track the success or failure of everything I attempt. So I keep a log. At this point I have about 10k followers, but if I create an update or post, at best, I reach ten percent of that and two percent would be a norm. I live, (and try to market), in the land of small numbers. Is it me, is my stuff that boring, or is it a function of the mysterious Linkedin content algorithm?
Let's use a case in point. We ran a contest as part of the marketing efforts where my friend Judy Novak created a PCAP containing a secret message. 4/20/16 we announced the contest to 101k people. There were no immediate solutions. Over the weekend I started to get nervous, what if nobody solves it? So I posted to Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter. Still no results. Monday, 4/25/16 I announced the contest to the GIAC Advisory Board and there were four solutions in about an hour. So, I went back to Linkedin and created a post about the solutions. In addition to the Linkedin content algorithm that either is or is not displaying it to my Linkedin followers, I announced it to the GIAC Advisory Board and wrote a piece for NewsBites. 24 hours after I posted it, there are 1093 views. While getting over 1,000 pageviews is a banner success for me, considering the firepower I employed it is a terrible result. There are a couple possible reasons for this:
- Nobody knows or cares about a PCAP file
- The Linkedin content algorithm is not causing it to be displayed
- My advertising is that lame
- People are so overwhelmed with content, this is just a blip
I am trapped in the land of small numbers, but I have hope in the law of small numbers
This is a blog about perception management. I am probably not succeeding in going viral, but that is not my charter. I am supposed to market SANS Boston 2016. Before I began this journey, I reread The Tipping Point.
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.
Small, precisely targeted push! This marketing campaign depends on small targeted pushes. While I do not expect to go viral, I expect to achieve good registration results and I am counting on the law of small numbers even while trapped in the land of small numbers. There are many definitions of the law of small numbers. For this discussion let's use this one from econlib based on the work of Kaheman and Tversky:
"One bias they found is that people tend to believe in “the law of small numbers”; that is, they tend to generalize from small amounts of data. So, for example, if a mutual fund manager has had three above-average years in a row, many people will conclude that the fund manager is better than average, even though this conclusion does not follow from such a small amount of data. Or if the first four tosses of a coin give, say, three heads, many people will believe that the next toss is likely to be tails. Kahneman saw this belief in his own behavior as a young military psychologist in the Israeli army. Tasked with evaluating candidates for officer training, he concluded that a candidate who performed well on the battlefield or in training would be as good a leader later as he showed himself to be during the observation period. As Kahneman explained in his Nobel lecture, “As I understood clearly only when I taught statistics some years later, the idea that predictions should be less extreme than the information on which they are based is deeply counterintuitive."
Each push may only reach 100 people. But of that 100 people, a few have already decided to take a SANS course, the question is which one and where. Others are thinking about taking a SANS course, they have not decided. Still others are thinking about taking a course from someone, somewhere. Between all the communication channels available to me, (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, NewsBites, the three email blasts, blogs), the strategy is that touchpoints will occur:
"Marketing touch points are any methods or modes of contact between a company and the consumer. Touch points can be face-to-face discussions, promotional fliers, online ads and anything else that involves a business marketing message, brand name or logo reaching the customer. The amount and effectiveness of your small business marketing touch points can determine your level of success and the ways your marketing can be improved."
If I can reach my targeted population AND the law of small numbers works, if there are enough touch points, it will be possible to help them along their buyer's journey from Awareness, (knowing SANS and SANS courses exists), to Consideration, (looking into courses that meet their needs), to Decision, (Choosing and registering for a SANS course and, (holy grail), doing it at SANS Boston),