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Does size really matter?

Posted by on in Social Media
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I know it’s Friday but get your head out of gutter – this article is about the size of your social network versus the quality of your social influence.

There’s no doubt about the overwhelming evidence for social media as an effective means of marketing, even for businesses that are traditionally unaffiliated with social media marketing. But when it comes to measuring this effectiveness, many companies, even digital marketing agencies, sometimes confine it to numbers such as Facebook likes or Twitter followers. Sure it’s easy to use measures like these because they are verifiable and quantitative, but the true significance of likes and followers to the success of a social media campaign is greatly overestimated.

Hey, we have all fallen into that trap of thinking that more (or bigger) is better, and it may even be true to an extent. For example some people may follow an account that has a large following simply to be a part of the crowd. So by this principle you could gain new followers simply because your numbers are impressive. So if you tweet to a 100,000 twitter followers at least some of them will take action to favourite or retweet.

This logic doesn’t illustrate the entire picture though, because the number of likes and followers you have don’t correlate directly with any measurable value. Your likes don’t correspond to a line of revenue, nor do they correspond to a level of brand awareness, since many of those likes may be from users who are indifferent to your brand, product or service.

Let’s face it. In truth, the number of followers you have is nowhere near as important as the type of followers you have.

You’ve probably heard of the Pareto principle, often known simply as the 80:20 rule. Basically, the theory is that that roughly 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of the causes. This basic concept is important in the context of social media: some users are simply more valuable than others. A vast majority of social media users are relatively stagnant. They consume information without contributing, sharing or interacting much. A minority of social media users are hyper-connected, influencing hundreds to millions of other users and interacting with brands and individuals on a consistent and useful basis.

This provides a basis for the argument that your total number of likes and followers isn’t as important as you may think. You could have 100,000 followers, but if none of them are engaging with your brand and none of them are sharing your content, that 100,000 is hollow. However, if you have 100 followers who are consistently active, sharing your content and responding to your calls to action, then you have a valuable and solid social substance to build on.

How you build a following matters. If you consistently post quality content that makes people think, laugh, smile, or share with their networks, people are going to want to follow you. If it’s content that’s relevant to your industry and to your brand, you’ll eventually build an audience that is genuinely interested in who you are, what you post, and most importantly, what you’re selling.

On the other hand, there are “fake follower” services, designed for people who want to purchase large quantities of likes and followers. These have been popular since the dawn of social media and have spawned a multi-million-dollar-a-year business. The followers from these sources are unlikely to be real people and are not interested in your brand. Other social strategists try to follow and like as many other pages and tweeters as they can in the hope that some of them will follow and like back. While these profiles represent real people and real companies, they are still unlikely to have a vested interest in your brand.

Google has spent more than a decade constantly improving its search algorithms to clear out fake, spammy, or overall low-quality sites designed to take advantage of technical processes. Facebook and Twitter are already taking steps to suspend and/or delete accounts that demonstrate evidence of aggressive behaviour or large quantities of fake followers. If you buy likes and followers, or use insincere and aggressive tactics to build your followings, eventually you could find your social media accounts closed, banned, or deleted.

The best way to build and maintain a following is to post creative, unique, and interesting content on a consistent basis.

One of the biggest complaints entrepreneurs have about social media marketing is the difficulty of calculating its return on investment (ROI). It’s almost impossible to precisely quantify what type of results your social media campaign is seeing, because it can have so many incalculable effects: these include improving search engine rankings, increasing brand awareness, or shaping the opinion of your brand in the mind of a reader (which could eventually lead to a sale).

However, it’s possible to get a read on how interactive your audience is, and the interactivity of your audience is a good indicator of your audience’s quality. People who engage with your brand are interested in your brand, and are therefore likely to either do business with you, or share your content to more potential followers and customers. On Twitter or Facebook, take a look at the number of people who engage with your brand (in the form of likes, comments, shares, favourites, recommendations, reviews, or retweets) on an average day, and compare that number to how many total followers you have. The greater this number, the better your audience, and the more value you’re getting out of your social media efforts.

If you’re already running a social media campaign, and you’re looking for ways to improve the quality of your audience, try these simple steps:

  • If you currently buy likes or followers, or use aggressive practices to build your following, stop immediately. These practices won’t be helpful to you in the long run.
  • It’s okay to get outside help growing your social media likes and followers, but be sure that you understand the tactics that are being used to acquire those likes and followers.
  • Develop a social media strategy that incorporates elements of high quality content, appropriate timing, and relevant engagement.
  • Encourage your users to engage with your brand by asking questions, encouraging comments, and offering incentives to share your content.
  • Seek outside help or assign a resource if you don’t have the time or resources to oversee your social media marketing campaign yourself.

Building a large social audience is a valuable goal, but before you get lost in the numbers, you have to consider the quality of your followers.