The evidence for social media as a viable means of marketing is overwhelming, even for businesses traditionally unaffiliated with social media marketing. But many companies, even major marketing and advertising agencies, use objective numbers like Facebook likes or Twitter followers to measure a campaign’s health or success. It’s tempting to use objective measures like these because they’re verifiable, quantitative, and logical, but the true significance of likes and followers to the success of a social marketing campaign is greatly overestimated.
Why It’s Natural to Think Likes and Followers Are Important
We all fall into the trap of thinking more is better, and to an extent, it’s true; there are some benefits to having more likes and followers. For example, people tend to follow accounts that have large followings simply because they want to be a part of the crowd. By this logic, you could gain new, real followers just because your numbers are impressive. Along similar lines, if you tweet a message to 1,000,000 followers, even if those followers aren’t loyal to your brand, at least some of them are going to respond or take action.
However, this logic doesn’t illustrate the entire picture. The main reason for this is that the number of likes and followers you have does not directly correlate 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 indifferent users. The truth is, the number of followers you have is nowhere near as important as the type of followers you have.
The Pareto Principle
The basic theory of the Pareto principle states that roughly 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of the causes. For example, roughly 80 percent of your revenue will come from 20 percent of your customers.
You can’t apply this model to everything, but the basic idea is important in the context of social media: some users are more valuable than others. A majority of social media users are relatively stagnant, consuming information without contributing 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 basis.
This idea provides the basis for the argument that your total number of likes and followers isn’t as important as most business owners think. You could have 1,000,000 followers, but if none of them are engaging with your brand and none of them are sharing your content, that 1,000,000 is meaningless. However, if you have 100 followers who are constantly active, sharing your content and responding to your calls to action, you have a valuable and solid social foundation.
The Method Behind Your Social Madness
How you build a following matters. If you consistently post quality content that makes people think, laugh, smile, or share with their friends, people are going to follow you. If it’s content that’s relevant to your industry and relevant to your brand, you’ll eventually build an audience of people who are genuinely interested in who you are, what you post, and perhaps most importantly, what you’re selling.
On the other hand, “fake following” services, designed for people to purchase large quantities of likes and followers, have been popular get-big-quick schemes since the dawn of social media, and are now a multi-million-dollar-a-year business. These followers are not interested in your brand for what it is; chances are, they aren’t even real people. Other strategists try to follow and like as many other pages as they can in the blind hope that some of them will follow and like back as a courtesy. While these profiles will represent real people and companies, they are still unlikely to have a vested interest in your brand.
It’s also worth mentioning that Google has spent more than a decade constantly improving its search algorithms to weed out fake, spammy, or overall low-quality sites designed to take advantage of technical processes. Facebook and Twitter are already taking steps to suspend or delete accounts that demonstrate evidence of aggressive following or purchasing fake followers, and it’s reasonable to think they will only become more adept at this as time goes on. If you buy likes and followers, or use insincere, 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. In 100 Killer Ideas For Your Social Media Content, I present enough concepts to keep your campaign running for a long time—so there’s no excuse to have a lack of content!
Measuring Your Impact
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, favorites, 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, indiscriminate practices to build your following, stop immediately. These practices won’t be beneficial to you in the long run. It’s okay to get help growing your social media likes and followers, but be sure to understand the tactics being used to acquire those likes and followers.
- Develop a social media strategy that incorporates elements of 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 if you don’t have the time or resources to oversee your social media marketing campaign personally.
Building a large social audience is an admirable and worthwhile goal, but before you get lost in the numbers, you have to consider the quality of your followers.
By Jayson DeMers for Forbes. This article was republished through NewsCred’s Licensed Content Network.