By Jason Menard
In a time where literally millions of people are at our fingertips, social networking shows that true value can come from far smaller numbers.
Traditionally, when it comes to promotion, we’ve conditioned ourselves to think that more is always better — you want to get that message in front of as many eyeballs as possible, right? But when it comes to both social media and advertising, that’s not always the case.
Social networking, especially, puts a premium on quality over quantity, which is why for the first time in years the little business with innovation on its side can succeed just as much as the corporate giant.
I spend a lot of time working in social media, both on a corporate and personal level. I don’t say this to justify my bonafides as any sort of expert, but rather to establish my bonafides as an observer of the industry. Trust me, then, when I say that business is still trying to figure social media out. And some of the biggest questions businesses have involve numbers. Specifically, what’s the value of a follower, a friend, or a like?
Here’s where my personal and professional worlds collided. Recently, I submitted an entry into a contest forLondon’s Western Fair, wherein I could officially blog the fair on behalf of the organizing body. I was delighted to be among the five chosen and I’m looking forward to experiencing the Fair and sharing my impressions.
But, in any contest, there are winners and losers. Some of those who did not win decried the lack of followers that some of the winners had on Twitter (full disclosure, I don’t know if they were referring to me, my co-winners, or all of us in general. And it really doesn’t matter, because the question raised is relevant, regardless).
One of the main arguments put forth was that these people had significantly more Twitter followers, so their reach and influence would be greater (quality of blog content was not addressed). But is that true? I would have to say that in all matters of promotion, quality trumps quantity each and every time.
I’m comfortable with the number of Twitter followers I have. Sure, I’d like more – but only the right type of followers. I want people that are engaged in my content, and who like what I write enough to want it delivered to them on a regular basis. Preferably, I want people who will read my work and take the time to comment – whether they agree or disagree with what I think. I’m not perfect; my views can be swayed if given adequate reason. Every time I write, I share my opinion, based upon a set of facts. We only grow through debate and discussion.
What I don’t want is the auto-follower, the Spammer, or the bot. I don’t follow to be followed, nor do I particularly want someone who is only following me because they hope I’m going to follow them back. Maybe I’m unrealistic, but I want to be more than a number.
As a consumer, I want the same thing – I want to be more than just an inflated target.
We live in a time where companies can target their messaging. If I’ve signed up for an e-mail, companies likely have enough information to provide me with content that interests me. As a business, that should be our goal – target the right message to the right person in the way that best suits them.
Personally, I’d rather send one message to 40 people who are engaged, interested, and likely to act, than send one to 100,000 people in the hopes that one or two may bite. And that increased engagement only comes from providing quality content that’s of value to your audience.
So what is one’s true reach? After a certain number of followers, Twitter can become unruly. And if people are following just to follow-back, then how much of that content is being consumed? I would like to think that the vast majority of people who follow my Twitter feed do so because they find my content of interest to them. Those people are more likely to take the time to read what I write and then share it with people in their circles (OK, we’ll throw Google+ in here too). Despite being a smaller audience initially, my words will carry greater weight because my feed has been chosen for a reason beyond just being a way to increase followers.
We know numbers lie. I can stand in a full college football stadium with a sign pointing people to my Web site’s URL. I could then say, “Look, I’ve potentially made 90,000+ impressions.” I wouldn’t be lying to anyone but myself.
True, my brand has potentially been in front of 180,000 eyeballs (give or take – you have to account for injuries… and pirates), but chances are those impressions haven’t made an impression. Now, if I take the time to talk to 20 people about my site and engage them in a one-on-one dialogue, I can safely assume that there will be a greater likelihood that these people will visit my site. So where’s the better investment? What’s the more true indication of success: two people out of 90,000 potential impressions, or 15 of 20 engaged contacts?
I counsel the same thing for likes. Nothing drives me up the ol’ Facebook wall more than companies who will post things like “Help us get to 1,000 likes by the end of this week!” There is no value in that unless you’re going to turn around and give them a reason to interact. You could have thousands of “likes” for your page, but if the numbers indicating reader interaction are non-existent, then where is the value? I’d rather have 2,000 monthly or weekly active users than 10,000 people who “like” my page, but show absolutely no interest in my content, don’t interact, and treat my feed like white noise.
I know that all computer actions can be reduced to 0s and 1s, I would hate for my words, thoughts, and opinions to be reduced to just being a way to inflate someone’s self-gratifying number.
Just like in real life, we can have thousands of friends and acquaintances, but it’s those true friends that give you – and your business – the most value.