It’s Time To Stop Counting Followers And Likes

It’s Time To Stop Counting Followers And Likesstop-measuring-friends-and-likes

Today’s marketer knows that having a social media strategy is important. More and more, customers are looking to Facebook and Twitter when making their purchasing decisions. But knowing exactly how much of an impact your efforts are having on social has always been tricky.

Because there is often no concrete way of measuring social ROI, marketers have, in the past, looked at arbitrary metrics such as follower numbers and ‘likes’. This seems at first to be a perfectly sensible assessment of the social media team’s success: the more followers and likes you have, the higher your reach.

But this approach is naive for two main reasons:

It doesn’t say anything about the quality of your audience.
It encourages the wrong kind of marketing behaviour.
Quality As Well As Quantity

Who is following you, and why, is much more important To a certain extent, having lots of followers is a great achievement. Your tweets are going to be seen by more people and there’s a certain amount of respect or trust afforded by people who come across you (especially for smaller businesses). But who is following you, and why, is much more important.

For a start, research has shown that up to 44% of Twitter accounts have never tweeted. Inactive accounts may be people who prefer to read but they also include fake or abandoned accounts. Either way, they are not going to help spread your messages. Tracking active and influential followers is a far better way to understand the power and reach of your following.

But numbers don’t tell you what kind of people are following you. What does a large following mean to a brand who make £60k sports cars if all their followers are teenagers who’s average income is £18k per year?

Brands need to be engaging with the people who will either buy their products or who’s authority will be trusted when they talk about them amongst their friends and colleagues.

Encouraging Bad Habits

A preoccupation with follower counts and likes often leads marketers to try the ‘RT and follow’ or ‘like us on Facebook’ competition route. This is great for growing numbers (and it’s really great for people who love competitions!) but it doesn’t build a social brand.

Imagine a company that sells high-end speakers. Only a very specific group of people would want, or could afford, to buy such a product. But pretty much everyone would accept a free set of speakers… or knows someone who would… or has an eBay account… So a competition offering such a thing would not necessarily attract people who could become future customers or advocates. In fact, if you’re constantly pushing competitions on social media, the sort of people you’re really interested in are more likely to unfollow you to clean up their spammy timeline.

That’s not to say all competitions are a bad thing. Some invite fans to share their own content and ideas, to engage in conversations and generally build a more active community. But take a look at the word-clouds showing the hashtags shared by two different sports apparel brands’ followers on Twitter in December.


One of them has clearly attracted a lot of sports fans talking about their favourite teams and TV shows, the other has attracted a lot of competition fans. The number of followers each one has is irrelevant; it’s the quality of the audience that makes one of these followings more valuable than the other.

Social media teams under pressure to show high follower numbers and likes are going to resort to competitions like these, or worse: buying them. Their bosses may be pleased at the end of the day but they’ve essentially done the equivalent of spending money on putting posters up on a road no-body uses, in a country where no-one can read them.

Engagement Is The Path To Success

To really measure your success you need to look at the amount of engagement you are generating It may seem obvious but social media is designed to be, well… social! To really measure your success you need to look at the amount of engagement you are generating.

Brands that engage with people in a more human way will find social media a powerful platform for spreading their messages and building loyal communities of fans. Starting conversations, creating content that inspires, entertains or solves problems, speaking directly to the people that matter and letting them help to build and shape your brand: this is what social media makes possible.

And the big social networks know this. Brands that don’t make the decision to engage rather than hunt for more and more followers will have the decision made for them, or perish.

The number of followers and likes you have is going to mean less and less. It’s time to start engaging. Read more here

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