Quantity vs. Quality: What Gets You Ahead in Social Media?

When marketers first step into any type of social media environment, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, or the thousands of other niche communities out there, they tend to fall into the trap of just counting the number of followers, fans, members, or friends that they have. Using this measurement alone can be a very misleading metric to base an integrated marketing strategy on.

Many companies tout, “Well we have X thousand of followers on Twitter! We’re doing great!” But are they really? Do they even know who their followers are and how they are valuing the content the company is putting out in their Twitter stream (if they are even doing that at all)? Do they know if their followers are “real”?

As multilevel marketing programs inundate social media communities with  get-rich-quick schemes that promise tens of thousands of followers/fans/friends if they just sign up for this service, there are a lot of spam accountsthat aren’t people at all. The accounts are bots. Understanding the quality of your followers is just as important as knowing how many you have.

While services that automatically follow back someone who follows or friends you on a particular social media platform can make managing and implementing a social media strategy a lot easier, they also have their drawbacks. You’re more likely to be targeted by spam accounts following you, who won’t add any value to your online marketing efforts if you incorporate these services. If you choose to use these services, how will you know what your followers will expect of you, or how you can engage them? It’s good to check out who is following you, because you can find influencers and engage with budding evangelists just by checking out their profiles and their news/Twitter streams.

Having 40,000 followers, fans, or friends doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot on the surface. While some might think that it’s a symbol of power, there are other things that need to be looked at for value and success. When you combine different metrics together, a clearer picture begins to form and more actionable insights can be drawn to further hone your success with your social media strategy.

Lets’ take a look at Twitter and Facebook for examples. With Twitter, it’s very easy to fall into the false belief that having a lot of followers is a great thing. It is, if you know all of those people following you are interested in your content and engaging with you. If they aren’t, having all of those followers won’t help you connect with your audience. To ensure you are progressing toward success, look beyond the mere number of followers you have and examine how many of those followers are talking to you either in “@” or direct messages. How many of your followers are retweeting the content you are putting in your stream?

Lists shouldn’t be ignored either. When your followers create lists and include you, it’s a sign that they find your content valuable enough to segment it for their followers to find it valuable as well. Also, don’t forget to see how many people within your followers are recommending that their friends and followers follow you as well. When you take all of these metrics and put them together, it begins to tell you a much better story about what’s happening with your engagement in Twitter.

Turning to Facebook, just because you have 100,000 fans won’t mean a thing if you don’t engage them. The mere number can seem like it’s a great thing, but many people on Facebook like things and then forget about them. Only when you can bring those fans back to interact with your brand/product/service on your fan page is when you can truly harness the power of Facebook as a social media tool.

It goes beyond just “liking” their comments too, as your team works in Facebook. To keep people interested and engaged you have to make your Facebook page a destination of engagement for them. Give them a reason to add their fan photos or shoot a video and upload it to your video gallery section in your fan page. Asking questions, posting links to content that is peripherally related to your company, and starting discussions are all ways to make your Facebook fan page a place where your fans want to come and share with their own network of friends.

Growing your base audience is important; monitoring how that happens is critical. Is it other influencers that are bringing you new fans? Is it your content? Is it the exclusive information you are giving to your audience? Watching your rate of growth after you do things is just another metric you can incorporate into your measuring plan.

When it comes to success with social media marketing, don’t be fooled by quantity. At the end of the day, it’s the quality of what you are giving your followers that matters the most if you want to be successful.

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