Stop Counting Followers – Start Building Relationships

Stop Counting Followers – Start Building Relationships

Mar 11, 2012

 
A Lot Of Numbers – Little Context

 
The whole social media spectrum is rampant with analytics. No matter what Social Media outlet you are utilizing you will find metrics around every corner screaming in your ear to get your attention. For example…

  • How many Twitter Followers do you have?
  • How many Facebook Friends?
  • How many times are you circled on Google+
  • What is your Klout Score?
  • How many times has your Page been “Liked?”
  • How many Blog Subscribers do you have?

Sadly the above serve as just a few examples. I could actually go on and on with the inordinate number of data points that exist in the social space. However I’m pretty sure that has been written about a few thousand times so I’m going to move in another direction.

Data + Context = Information

In the world of marketing and media metrics matter. It is the best way to measure ROI and therefore it is important that we know how many eyeballs are seeing our work.

The problem is the data in itself is often raw.

For instance, you are brand “X” and you pay 3 million dollars for a Super Bowl ad and you have 5 million people watch the commercial, how many dollars in revenue did you just create?

Answer: You and (they) really have no idea.

Further, even if someone sees the Doritos commercial and then goes out and purchases a bag of Doritos what is to say that wouldn’t have happened anyway?

Reality: There are simply too many variables.

Let’s Take A Step Back: Brand Y-O-U

Major brands have purpose beyond just creating revenue by doing commercials and other media campaigns. They are attempting to stay front of mind and in front of the consumer. In many ways they are building relationships and this is entirely possible when you have massive budgets for air time.

However, most of us in the Social Media realm are not major brands. We do not have endless budgets and the brand that we are most appropriately representing is ourselves.

If this is the case then the measurements we use need to be different. However, based on my observation this isn’t the case.

How Many Followers Do You Have?

It is sort of funny when I talk to someone that isn’t a big Social Media user. They ask about follower counts and when I say I have six thousand or so they are blown away. If you ask a Twitter veteran the same question they would say that is nothing.

At this point I know dozens of people with north of 100k followers. While those are huge numbers, what does that mean?

Given the fact that followers can be easily purchased for about a penny a piece, as can likes and most other Social Metrics, I’m beginning to think that the numbers in themselves don’t mean all that much.

Further followers can be gained through follow-back tools and metrics can be gamified through “Like This” tactics where someone has to like a page in order to gain access to other content in which they actually sought out.

Perhaps that sheds some light on how someone with 100, 200, or even 500k followers may share something of yours and it doesn’t receive a single RT? (This definitely happens)

None of this is to say that great metrics don’t mean great things, it is really more to say that the numbers by themselves require context to be given meaning and great numbers only mean great results if numbers are all that are being sought.

Which for most of us isn’t the case.

Why I am Here

The other day someone asked me what all the Tweeting had translated to in terms of business success. It was a great question that stopped me in my tracks.

I hadn’t joined Twitter to close business or really to sell anything; Except for myself that is. It was my desire to connect with people, information, and ideas that would foster continued growth for me as an individual.

I had always thought that perhaps some day it would amount to something tangible, but I have never directly sought that.

Perhaps I am naive, but I’m here to build relationships.

For me though it isn’t a volume game, it is a qualitative effort that cannot be measured by followers, friends, klout, pins, +1′s, or any other quantifiable metric.

I believe the value that can come out of just a few really meaningful relationships will greatly supersede the value of a massive following that is mostly disconnected.

Test This Theory: What percentage of your Followers do you speak to regularly (More than 1x a week or month for that matter)

Why Are You Here?

Social Media is different for everyone. Everyone has a purpose, even if that is no purpose.

Nevertheless, if your purpose is just adding numbers than you can count on just average results.

I liken the accumulation of large metrics with buying nice things to impress your neighbors. AKA -> “Keeping Up With the Joneses”

When I grew up my father used to say this to me about that very subject…

“People buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people that don’t care.”

In Social Media I re-purpose this to say

“People collect followers they don’t need, to accumulate numbers that mean nothing, so they can impress people they don’t know”

Greatness is built in both the width and the depth of the connections we have.

So why are you here?

24 comments
d_scott
d_scott

Marc - A friend* of mine told me a definition of friend which resonated: A friend is someone you can call in the middle of the night, say you need them to be in Detroit tomorrow afternoon and they say "OK".

 

We have many connections & acquaintances - that's fine. We use the term Friend like we use the word Love. Perhaps a bit carlessly. That's fine as well. We are limited by our culture and language. Cuturally we often move quickly to the superlative; Lingistically we look to the poet to string together words - which are weak at conveying the true depth of emotion. So we use certain words and jump to the superlative because it is the best tool we have at hand.

 

*My friend Bill would climb on board aplane if I called; I would do the same for him. We happen to be connected on LinkedIn & Facebook; most of the folks with which I have a connection on those sites would not be in Detroit tomorrow afternoon; and, I would not pose the question to them or expect such a request.

MZazeela
MZazeela

Great article, Daniel.

 

Ask a 20 something how many friends they have and they will likely say something like 5,000. Of course they are talking online friends. How many have they actually talked to? How many have they met in person? I would imagine the percentage of real contact, are startlingly low.

 

Sadly, I think some of us may be losing the concept of what really constitutes a real friend.

 

Cheers,Marc

BruceSallan
BruceSallan

I sadly do "count" now and then. But, thanks to Jure I NO LONGER look or care a hoot about my Klout. I honestly care who I touch, who I really "like," and who really "likes" me. I care and hope that I make a difference. Numbers will never replace the great feeling I get most every day of my new life writing, speaking, and meeting people!

susansilver
susansilver

I used to be a Twitter maniac. It was my main way of connecting to people, but it was not a strong bond. I started taking a few tips from some people in my network. I started commenting everyday on blogs.

 

Views on my blog have jumped and so have comments. The community is growing because I am taking the time to actually have a conversation with others in a space of more than 140 char.

 

I think as I start building relationships Twitter will get better too. I will be connecting with people who I know for one reason or another. It should make it more worthwhile!

dabarlow
dabarlow

Daniel, Great post! My reason for being here is more of a personal nature - to learn! Oh boy have I, CRM, SEO, ROR.... Makes my head swim at times! Thank You for your blog post, learn from you!

westfallonline
westfallonline

 @Daniel Newman , you continue to impress me with your focus on the conversations and relationships that really matter.  Your approach to social media has been one that I have long admired and tried to follow.  It's about quality, not quantity - and thank you for quantifying what's really important.

Latest blog post: Can You Really Connect?

Hinsel
Hinsel

GREAT Post!!It's SO hard to get seo and social clients to realize that it's not always about how many people you have following you. It's better to have 100 people actually listening to you than to have 1000 people ignoring you completely. I REALLY stress this when talking with the few clients who are bold enough to undertake their own social management: Social media isn't about selling something to your audience it's about connecting to that audience. If you are nurturing your followers properly everything else will fall in line naturally - as it should - for even more powerful returns.

d_scott
d_scott

Great post!

 

Working with clients we discuss the simple strategy of being where your customers are - could be trade shows or other events, might mean membership in the chamber of commerce. I tell them that even though they (as individuals) may not be involved in Social Media, it is likely some their customers look to SoMe when researching purchases; so they need to be present when their customers or prospects cruise the various platforms. 

 

My focus tends toward Promotion of the business over Sales of products when considering SoMe.

 

I am a part of two businesses & oversee the SoMe for both organizations. In the first, we worked with an individual that took the "numbers" approach ( @pajaggle ). The Twitter numbers grew - but we were not promoting the business or products to our customers.  In the second case ( @earthfort ) I am managing the accounts with a client focused intent. The number growth is slow, but I can (at least anecdotally) link interactions to sales.

 

It is not magic - it is work. Find a good consultant & learn to be efficient; or learn by trial & error. It's your business, you get to decide where you put your resources.

JBTWEETNOTHINGS
JBTWEETNOTHINGS

I've said for a while that the number of followers is meaningless.  I'll take a handful of quality contacts over a plethora of mediocre ones every day.

siyafrica
siyafrica

This is what irks me about social media marketing and brands who are starting off in social networks. The overriding notion is that the more followers you have the more popular you and the more brand advocates you have. This is hubris when you dig into the conversations that are taking place about you and find how negatively people view the brand in that social space. Rather focus on actual engagement and the value of those engagements.

noize_hazard
noize_hazard

Great conversation. I agree with a large part of what has been said both in the article, and the comments. As someone very new twitter, and to the whole process of playing in a virtual environment, I am pleasantly surprised by the amount of useful things I have found through twitter. The coolest thing to me is how you get to choose doorways to open and close and which allow in pre-selected information. Surprisingly beneficial. 

WarrenWhitlock
WarrenWhitlock

Love the emphasis on tracking what percentage you engage with. You asked the question so I assume you have a way to do that. Would you mind sharing that? I hold that follower counts are not meaningful. I'd rather my profile show how many people I've engaged with or how many people I've helped. So far, I've not found such a tool

Milaspage
Milaspage

Daniel, I am in total agreement with you in what you are saying here. Interestingly I was having a similar conversation with @josepf the other day.

 

I believe that the number of followers, or likes do not directly translate into action or $. If you are looking at this from a business perspective, the only people who could truly capitalize on high number of followers or likes are people working directly in social media, who need to show they are doing something right. Same with Klout. For example, if someone tells me their social media person is amazing and I go check their activity, followers, mentions and I see no activity or under 100 followers, I do question their capability- because as you say, its not hard to start buying these for pennies, or to amass for the *wrong* reasons.

 

 @margieclayman Discussed a similar point of view at tweetdiner last week, what does this amount to for your business? Whats the result, does having likes mean sales or business success? - again, my point of view, only if what you are discussing or selling is in regard to social media. OR for brands if you have international (or at least national) selling capability, then being in front of the most eyes possible is a good thing. But that's not giving you dollars (sales) that's giving familiarity.

 

to answer your question, I am in social media because I like learning, I started here reading, not really communicating back - eventually I started to comment on blogs, then got into the #usguys stream, where I realized there was more to do, there were awesome people out there, sharing and building relationships. Sometimes I can even be helpful by sharing my stories, or progress. I love that aspect, growing together, meeting new awesome friends, reading about perspectives....

 

On a business level, the likes and follows i hope my business account to get should be local or within Canada, If i amass 50k followers in china, well that wont help my business at all. Every person has to ask themselves, why are you here, what are you doing, and what really shows value. Where I have seen business success, has been where I have been helpful to people within the specialty of my company, thats our goal, support and information. From there, with increased visibility or constant participation I will hope that it will lead to trust, relationships and indirectly sales or referrals - but this is merely a duplication of what we built our business on, nothing new. If we have likes from around the world, and those people spurr conversation, then there is valeu there too, because it will allow for more information sharing and support, and spreading of our expertise....

 

So those are my answers , on two levels - personal as a professional, and from the business perspective.

 

Personally, I dont see any value in buying followers, but I guess its because of the answer to your question, why I am here... why on earth would I want to inflate whats really happening? I like to know if someone follows me, its maybe because they like me, and what I share. they want to share too, or communicate, even build a relationship. I like it that way, its genuine... I keep it on that level.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @BruceSallan Genuine empathy will always help you get a long way Mr. Sallan! Thanks as always for your addition to the conversation.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @susansilver Susan - it sounds like you have found a good approach that works.  That is what I think it is all about.  What works for you!

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @dabarlow Thanks for adding to the conversation Denise.  I appreciate your support and regular sharing very much!

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @Hinsel Even 1 truly committed customer/fan can exceed thousands of meaningless followers.  That is where the context of numbers become so important. 

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @d_scott  @earthfort I really like your last statement. I think people still think there is something magical about Social Media.  Like all other mediums for marketing and communications, it takes work and dedication to achieve success!

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @siyafrica I definitely think numbers have a place - I just think brands put unnecessary amounts of emphasis on this and they often need to look at what a relationship is versus a follower.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @noize_hazard Twitter is a great place to find vast amounts of information.  It is a tool and like all tools...with proper usage can come great results!

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @WarrenWhitlock Warren, I wish I could say I have the magic tool.  I suppose because my numbers are still pretty small that it is easy enough for me to track.

Surprisingly enough, there aren't too many tools that I am aware of that tell you who you have engaged with most often and provided a more meaningful insight into the engagement.  Perhaps that is a business idea?

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @Milaspage Wow - what an incredibly thoughtful comment.  I do agree with you that limited proof of competency does make sense for a SM professional.

I am also glad that you see what I am trying to say is that there is so much more than just numbers here.  

However we have to get out there and find it!

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