The Long of the Short of It
So, when I first heard the phrase “long tail” I immediately visualized a pheasant. I mean, I married a hunter who grew up in Iowa – all he ever talks about is hunting pheasant when we head back to his parents – what do you expect me think when I hear “long tail!” However, that image quickly went “poof” because pheasants don’t exist in social media, at least, none that I know of. However, after really getting into Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail (both the book, and the article) the phrase long tail became much clearer and much more applicable to everyday things. Anderson’s example of Amazon really solidified the concept for me. At first, selling less of a lot more was a bit confusing, but applying it to Amazon and Apple’s iTunes was like turning on a light bulb for me. Not only is Amazon an amazing example of social media at work – without even trying to be a social networking site – Amazon sells a lot of stuff, but it’s a lot of little things made bigger by the customers who visit Amazon to buy something! So there is an explanation of the business model Amazon has adapted – the long tail. Now, obviously the long tail makes much more sense when you see it in graph form - for the simple reason that it shows a long tail and a short body. But it also helps to convey the message that the long tail theory has solid roots in just about every activity out there – isn’t math the universal language? And the long tail theory has it’s roots in math. Now, math certainly is not my favorite subject, but it is something I can get behind when it helps me to understand social theories and the world around me. Which is exactly what the long tail chart did when reading Anderson’s book. Not only did Anderson describe long tail in detail, he also showed it to me so that I had both the examples he used, and a visual chart to drive the point home. Given all the information Anderson presented, I’m starting to see the long tail in a lot of my daily activities and how it’s all around us – whether it’s Amazon selling things, iTunes offering a variety of media, or Facebook bringing together millions of users from around the world – long tail can be found just about anywhere.