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John Rose's Blog

Social Media Quantity vs. Quality

We all agree that the power of social media is that it enables us to engage our audiences one-on-one. Then why, I ask, is there so much focus on building large groups of followers? Isn’t that the old media model…the one where we broadcast our message to as many people as possible with the hope of compelling a few to respond? Social marketing is supposed to be about the power of economically communicating at a personal level with like-minded individuals and not on circulation figures. Right?

So does the size of your audience matter? Sure it does, but not as much as most people seem to think.

Yes, of course, there is a base number of followers or friends your company may need to prove credibility. This number will vary by industry, but it is essentially a number high enough to demonstrate that the brand or company has found an audience and is worthy of someone’s time.

But if the focus (and measurement for success) of your business’s social media program is primarily to build large numbers of followers, you’re missing the whole point.

For one thing, it’s easy to manufacture large numbers of followers using a variety of schemes. But these followers will soon leave in search of a more personal experience. If they don’t outright unfollow you, they will most certainly tune-out -- making your messaging ineffective in any case. And don't fool yourself. People can tell if you manufacture a large audience and are not timid to call you on it.

A large audience on Twitter, for example, may garner a lot of retweets (RT) for your messages. And an RT from a follower that in turn has many other followers who also RT will grow your sphere of influence exponentially. However, if most of your followers are spam and bots, what does it matter?

It’s far more important to gain followers organically by listening, communicating, engaging, delivering meaningful content, etc. A small audience of responsive followers is always better than a large number of uninterested followers.

So why focus on numbers at all? There are lots of other things to measure, like: comments, click-throughs, conversions, RTs, traffic, etc. Sure, measure the number of followers and friends as well. But by focusing on the organic growth of your audience, you will build a swelling, loyal tribe who will help you leverage the power of your brand, rather than on a large but hollow circulation figure that really only makes you and your boss happy.