Social media isn't about numbers, it's about the value in your numbers

by Kate Brodock on 2 August 2009

Posted in: Explanation,Random Thoughts

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I recently had a conversation with someone about numbers and social media.  It was not unlike many conversations I’ve had before.  I was asked to defend my mere 2,000 Twitter followers against someone else’s 5,000 or so.  Doesn’t that make them better at social media?  To his credit, he was merely playing with me, and was not necessarily a numbers guy himself, but many people DO base your skill level on this!

My answer is flat out no.  I’m a huge proponent of value.  Value, value, VALUE.  I can’t even say it enough.  And that’s why I’m very picky about my own numbers and my company’s numbers when it comes to what that audience means for me and Other Side Group in the long term.

As an example, let’s talk about my Twitter following.


So firstly, I don’t think 2,182 is so paltry in terms of followers.  Secondly, I feel that over 75% of my followers (basically, the ones I’m following back) are of high value.

I have not actively sought additional followers since I reached the 300 mark or so. Which means almost everyone past that followed me.  Which then means that, as mentioned above, the 75% that were not spam, found me worth following in the first place. I’m offering them something.

What type of qualities in a follower or fan do I define as valuable? Everything that we say is important in social media:

  • They are seeking value from the people they go to
  • They engage in discussion and conversation
  • They seek two-way communications
  • They are actually listening to the people they are following – in this case me – because of these things.

I follow people that I know will have great ideas, pass along great articles or resources, respond to me when I’m seeking advice or answers, be receptive to my discussion and advice-giving, and want to have “meaningful” online relationships.  That’s what I’m here for.

Fred Wilson had a great post about total users versus active users in which he said:

“Your best advocates are always your most active users. So focus on them, make them successful in your service, focus on growing that number, and the non-active problem will take care of itself.”

In my opinion, you should work from the get-go to get users that have the most chance of remaining active and engagement in the long-run, which further lessens you having to “deal” with the problem of non-active users.

A few more numbers that I would be interested in, or that I’d love people or potential clients to be asking me (and that I care about when people tell me their social media “numbers”):

  1. I am regularly “nominated” by at least 5 people each week for #followfriday.  Now, some people will scoff at it, but at the very least I feel this is testament to the fact that I am offering them at least some reason to follow me.  Yes I have to work at it, but it’s worth it to me because they’re loyal and I know I can go to them when I need to.
  2. When I need answers or advice, I get responses to questions within minutes from people following me.  They are engaged in their community (of which I’m a part) and they want to give back.  I love this, and I thank them.
  3. When I invited people to the Other Side Group Facebook Page, I could have easily sent it to every one of my 700+ friends and Boom! I would have an envious fan following for a firm our size.  But I didn’t.  I went through each of those friends and decided who I thought would actually value what we were doing and providing, who might interact with our content, etc.  That’s all that matters to me.  We’re at 113 fans right now, and it slowly grows every day with new people who are being exposed to our information through those initial fans.
  4. I was able to organize – which means find speakers, find sponsors and promote – an event that brought 150+ attendees in the short span of about three weeks using almost solely my following on Twitter and Facebook.  I’m not tooting my horn, I’m highlighting how darn powerful that is! (Thank you guys!).

These are just a few examples, but my biggest question remains.  Why don’t people ask more about the value of these networks rather than just the numbers?

We talk a lot in marketing about Reach (R), Frequency (F) and Impact (I).  From my observations, too many people are focusing on just the R and F when it comes to social media marketing.

R and F cater to the 0.5 second blasts that people send out, which are usually memorable for perhaps 1 second total by the majority of “listeners.”  This can be useful for general brand awareness.  But what about the I? The brand IMPACT?

More emphasis needs to be placed on the I and how to achieve that, because that’s really all that matters in the long run.  This is the only way to achieve long-term brand loyalty.

I would venture a bet that my 2,000 Twitter followers have way more Impact than someone who went out and aggressively sought followers from anywhere just to get their numbers up, which is what I see time after time again. [I've met so many people at social media networking events that say things like "yeah I just reached 5,000 followers."  Great, I say, what's their profile?  What are they doing for you? Will they still be around in and paying attention in six months?

This may not matter as an individual (although it may), but it becomes poor strategy (or no strategy!) when it comes to business.

Case in point:

I recently spoke to a company that was marketing the fact that they were "social."  What this meant, to them, was listing on their homepage the number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans that they had.

Well, that could be great if it weren't for the fact that the way they GOT those fans was by running a promotion for a giveaway of a prize completely unrelated to their product offering.  The "fans" rallied behind the brand for the prize giveaway, and once the prize was given out and the contest ended, the majority of the fans were completely uninterested in the product offering, and those that may have been were left idle because of a lack of sales follow-up on the part of the company.

This is a waste of money and a missed revenue opportunity.  Period.

Yet they still tout their numbers on their homepage.....

So let's start talking about value more when you're both increasing your own social media presence and when you're analyzing others.

What do you think about numbers?  Are you getting value out of your numbers?  Are you wishing you got more value?  Have you found a straight numbers approach to social media useful in anyway?  We'd love to hear from you!

  • Erin Eschen

    Aaron, great post. I also attended HIMSS 11 as a B2B marketer and social media strategist for Perficient, Inc. I couldn’t agree more with “dynamic, challenging industry and the potential impact on people’s lives is high” — it’s a joy, as a marketer, to be able to participate in a specific industry that does in fact have such a potential for impact to the average consumer – in fact, EVERY consumer. I found the networking and social media aspects to be higher at this show than many others I’ve attended, even marketing conferences. There’s something about the collaboration and connectedness that everyone is living and breathing in the future of healthcare that turns everyone on to social media as an avenue for achieving it.

  • Aaron Pearson

    Hey, sorry I missed your comment earlier, Erin. Wanted to let you know I appreciate it, and your passion for the industry!

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