How many Facebook fans does your company page have? What number of followers does your Twitter handle lay claim to? Do any of these things really matter when all’s said and done?
We live in a world where image is often seen as the most vital asset for a business. Social media’s ability to make or break a brand with a few clicks has never been more apparent and increasingly to the attention of the C Suite. The rush to create pages and build followers just because our rivals do is fools gold.
This often leads to vanity metrics such as Followers and Likes becoming a daily grail for marketers, seeking large communities to validate the time spent on social media. But these numbers can be misleading, lacking in transparency, and- in the worst cases- completely fabricated.
Despite frequent headlines exposing brands- from celebrities to limited companies- for ‘faking’ likes and followers, for example by buying in support from false social accounts, the practice remains alarmingly prevalent. It’s obviously nice to garner a significant social following, but there are more important metrics to take into consideration when trying to calculate a return on your social media investment.
Put simply, then, Likes and Followers are figures that only really matter in the ongoing ego contest companies are locked into. In contrast, the interaction between a firm and their online entourage gives away far more about how that business is perceived than those relatively arbitrary numbers.
Let’s take Barrack Obama, for instance. As the third most popular figure on Twitter, it’s estimated that around 20million of his Followers are actually ‘fake’. This isn’t to say he has embarked on a campaign to buy himself online popularity, the cause of these fakes could be automated bot software targeting his account. But what matters is the fact these Followers will do nothing once they have followed him, resulting in zero engagement from those ‘users’.
That’s particularly bad for business. Any social account that seems to have a high number of Fans or Followers, but also has a low level of engagement, is likely to have legions of fake accounts hidden within those statistics. That lack of engagement at best suggests a company that does not understand how to use social media effectively, and at worst reveals a firm that’s more interested in surface level looks, rather than working hard at building up a genuine active community.
Needless to say, the alternative requires plenty of effort, man hours and commitment. In the words of Springsteen:
But it’s also worth it. Social media managers and bosses should look at achieving a high number of comments, clicks, shares and other actions taken by Fans and Followers to fully understand their online impact. From a professional perspective, it’s far more reassuring to have a relatively low number of Fans and Followers, but with a good proportion of those engaging, than the reverse.
Ultimately social media is just a group of channels, which when harnessed correctly help to achieve your business goals, whether aimed at changing opinion or behaviour in some manner. Measurement should therefore be linked to this.
So what can we do to try and achieve that ideal? Well, for one thing firms should look for meaningful incentives- from good quality bespoke content and a commitment to effective communication with other social media users, to promoting positive initiatives that have a genuine impact on the community- both on and offline. By focusing on these concepts it’s likely you’ll see an upsurge in engagement, in turn dramatically improving your overall reach, which, ultimately, is what digital marketing is really all about.