Why Napoleon Has More Followers than You

Napoleon the first holding an iphone

Napoleon was known for his innovation on the batttlefield.

@Napoleon_Bonaparte: “Soldiers! Forty centuries behold you!”


French nationalism existed since Joan of Arc, but it was Napoleon who best championed it. His quotes (of which there are many) did wonders for inspiring courage in his men. But what if his quotes were all he had? What if he amounted to nothing more than a well-dressed man with platitudes, a loud voice and a podium (and likely a stepping stool, too)?

His results would have been much like a brand trying to drive its way into consumer’s minds with nothing but social media, a mistake that’s far too common these days. At heart, this problem is the classic blunder of letting tactics dictate strategy, rather than the other way around. But the hype of the (relatively) new social media bandwagon is giving business owners tunnel vision, and they’re pouring resources into social media to the detriment of things much more critical of success in the marketplace.


@Napoleon_Bonaparte: “A man does not have himself killed for a half-pence a day or for a petty distinction. You must speak to the soul in order to electrify him.”


What the great general is referring to is nationalism: the idea that one’s country is more than lines on a map or the soil at their feet. He inspired countless soldiers to give up their lives for him, and achieve remarkable things in the process. But it wasn’t really for him, but for France; France was special. France was great. France was worth dying for.

The problem is, while social media is an excellent way to maintain relationships with people already loyal to your brand, drawing interest from someone with no existing personal investment in your business requires more than social media can typically offer alone (with some exceptions, but not that many). Unless it’s used as an extension of a more comprehensive campaign, a series of posts and tweets can only offer so much substance.


@Napoleon_Bonaparte: “My business is to succeed, and I am good at it. I create my Iliad by my actions, and I create it day by day.”


Let’s talk about that “extension” bit for a little. Social media was an enormous driving force for the success of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. But imagine if social media was all that campaign was about! That means no videos, no testimonials, no news placements. Nothing but posts and tweets. Would that have been anywhere near as successful if Dove just tweeted about how women were beautiful a bunch of times? Even the key influencers on social media that helped make the campaign viral would most likely not have relayed it had not the campaign been more thorough than that.

Here’s another thought experiment: We’ve seen “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter” at the bottom of too many websites, posters and brochures to ever count. But what if those links were placed on top, instead? How many people could you motivate to subscribe to your feeds before they see all your content? Doing the opposite is more effective because a consumer has to be shown why your business is interesting before they’re likely to crave more information.


@Napoleon_Bonaparte: “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.”


I discovered how critical using social media as an extension was to generating a following when I started a new Twitter account for Quicksilver Edge’s video game PR efforts. My first thought was “I’ll engage a bunch of influencers and get my name out there!” I was successful… sort of. I followed lots of big figures in the video games industry and started chatting with them. Sometimes I’d throw in my PR two cents, other times I’d just make a joke.

Then I followed a hashtag for a game creation competition I took part in and Tweeted about my progress every few hours. Between these efforts I got lots and lots of favorited tweets, including by some pretty big industry names. I also got a number of retweets with thousands of expected views each. But after the whole process, I had only 16 followers.

What I had done was deliver messages that people liked. They were useful, or funny, or both! But they weren’t tied back to Quicksilver Edge as an agency. They did not motivate anyone to like us. What was missing was an important tie-in to what we do, which could have been accomplished by referring people to useful content I had created, or getting people involved in an initiative, or something else along those lines. Your business and your social media are not the same thing; they can love one and not the other.


@Napoleon_Bonaparte: The secret of war lies in the communications.”


In summary, you need to demonstrate your value before you can earn a social media follower, and that’s difficult with only posts and tweets at your disposal. Napoleon had to win wars before his speeches would move anybody, and France had to mean something to earn the sacrifice of her soldiers. Do this for your brand, and you will have countless followers stay engaged to you, and say remarkable things about you in the process. That’s because it’s not about your tweets, but your brand; your brand is special. Your brand is great. Your brand is worth subscribing for.

Bookmark the permalink.

One Comment

  1. Worth noting, Unilever launched the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign in 2004, the same year Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, which didn’t become a household commodity for another five years or so. By that time, leveraging Facebook and other social media enhanced the well-established, well-liked “Real Beauty” brand.

Comments are closed