By nature, the very definition of a paradox is that which is self-contradictory or draws illogical conclusions.

Personally I feel as though this is a fitting description for the state of social media scalability and describes in one word why it is so difficult for businesses to get right. While the concept itself is not difficult, the practical application seems to elude brands and I see a lot of failure as a result.

The reality is that social media is both scalable and unscalable and in order to exploit it to its full potential you need to know how to effectively manage both.

The reason that this is self-contradictory is that the scalable nature of social then leads to the very unscalable and unmanageable but paramount side of it too.

So is social really scalable or not scalable? And which do you focus on?

Let me attempt to explain.

When I refer to social’s scalability I am talking about the ability to broadcast to the masses. There has never been a better time to push your message out en masse.

But that’s also exactly what needs to be understood — when we talk scalability, we are talking ‘broadcasting’ essentially and broadcasting is not a relationship. Even if your message is valuable there is still a selfish element to it. You are pushing your own agenda. Whether that be to garner more traffic, make sales, increase likes or grow your channels — the agenda is real.

The power of paid social makes this even more of a reality for those with a budget for such things. Create a message of some description, put some money behind it on Facebook and (if it’s valuable) watch the metrics evolve.

The problem here is that a vast majority of businesses are all for broadcasting and scaling the parts of their message and business that they know how to, but they don’t understand that it’s the unscalable efforts that matter — perhaps even more so.

What I mean by this is that 1:1 conversation with potential customers, clients, leads, passers-by — these matter, and for the most part, unless you have a large customer service team, it’s not particularly scalable.

However, like most things this is where the quality is.

This is where the return is and without investing in the unscalable nature of social, you do not have a strong foundational social media marketing arm within your business.

We’re living in a culture that is so attention deficit that when anybody gives you their attention it’s important that it is acknowledged at some level. I understand for bigger businesses it isn’t always possible to get to every single one however, it’s possible to allocate time each day to make a concerted effort.

Further to this, it’s hardly a customer experience to write home about when a brand treats you like another number, another note in their cash register. Which is why the conversation must continue after the message is broadcast, after the questions have been asked, after the sale is made.

It is no longer ‘he who has the most relationships wins’ but rather ‘he who has the most meaningful ones does.’ 

This will reflect in referrals, brand advocacy and repeat purchasing.

So, back to the original questions — is social scalable or not? I would say it’s both.

And which do we focus on? Again, I would say both. Do not neglect one for the other. Create a strategy to effectively manage both.

Scale and broadcast all you like but put measures in place to ensure you invest in the long term relationships.

Engage those who reward you with their attention.

You only have moments before their attention will be turned elsewhere and you cannot get it back.