It is so easy to become obsessed with numbers in social media. How many Facebook likes or fans does your online business have? How many Twitter followers? How many people have liked or shared your Pinterest pins? It can be immensely satisfying to see those numbers tick upwards as you work on boosting your reach.
After all, if you are receiving validation on social media, you must be doing something right - right?
Yes, social media engagement and interaction is a significant and powerful tool for your business. However, this obsession with social media numbers is dangerous.
You start to feel that there is some sort of sleight of hand going on here. While we are all happily focused on notifications that inform us of a new like, fan or follower are we actually missing a crucial point?
All of this activity - no matter how positive and affirming it feels - does not belong to your business. Indeed, the only true winner, the only business that will ultimately benefit from this social media engagement is the social media platform itself.
When I first started my business, I decided to focus on building a social media following in order to raise awareness. I thought to myself, as soon as I have a certain number of Twitter followers, I will start to promote my new business.
So I set about engaging with people on social media and I loved it. I still do. I can’t help getting excited when someone engages with my tweets or posts. I value the opportunity to connect with someone that, without the power of social media, I would never have met.
My aim was to build relationships, to be helpful and to share interesting and relevant content so that my followers would come to see me as an informed and trusted source of information in my chosen field. I hoped that, once I had earned their trust and once I had provided enough value, my followers wouldn’t mind me promoting my services.
Now, I'll bet this strategy is familiar to you. I think Gary Vaynerchuk describes it best in his books, The Thank You Economy and Jab Jab Jab, Right Hook (if you haven’t read these books, I would highly recommend you grab a copy of both!).
Gary likens Twitter to a cocktail party and asks us if we would really march up to someone that we haven’t met before and immediately bark our latest sales pitch at them. You just wouldn’t do this face to face so why are so many businesses doing it on social media? Putting it this way, it is easy to see why spending time on building social media relationships is critical.
However, the danger lies when you focus on building your social media numbers and view it as the be all and end all. In reality, your Facebook fans or Twitter follower numbers are not a means to an end. So you have thousands of fans - now what? Yes, you may have more eyes on your content but are those eyes actually yours? No, those eyes actually belong to Facebook and Twitter et al. They don’t belong to you.
Say, for example, that you have spent hours on building thousands of Twitter followers. Then imagine that Twitter decided to call it quits and shut down the network. What are you left with? Nothing. It is quite a sobering thought isn’t it.
Let’s try another one… say, for example, you have spent lots of time designing your business Facebook page. You have designed it to perfection and invested hours crafting hundreds of visually stunning posts. Then Facebook decides to get rid of all images and change the way all business pages look. What do you have to show for your time investment? Nothing.
Now, I know that these two examples are pretty unlikely scenarios. Twitter seems good and healthy at the moment and images are becoming ever more important to Facebook. However, what these examples do illustrate is the fact that you don’t actually own the space you occupy on social media platforms. They are not yours and, in the end, you have no control over their future.
Feeling that your business’ online presence is controlled by someone else is a little unsettling to say the least. So what should we do to regain control?
Social media numbers are misleading. Fact. You may look over at your competitor and feel disheartened by the fact that this business has far more fans and followers than you. Take a moment and look at just who these followers are. Are they all relevant to your business and industry? Or are they just numbers for the sake of numbers?
I don’t know about you, but I would rather have a handful of top quality contacts than thousands of followers who are purely following me on the off chance that I will follow back and boost their own numbers.
Quality will win - every time.
It is time to refocus on quality and to see social media engagement as a powerful tool that drives people to a place that you can control - your website. Keep interacting with your followers and fans, keep helping and sharing relevant content but also have a strategy where you can convert these people from social media followers to your members of your organisation’s email list.
I have just watched a series of amazing videos from Amy Porterfield whose Facebook marketing strategy has proven invaluable to many businesses. Amy advises businesses to view Facebook as a way to build email lists.
Amy suggests creating a lead magnet that your ideal clients and customers will not be able to resist. Once you have created this lead magnet, she advises that you promote it on Facebook and include a link to a place on your own website where you can collect email addresses.
Once you have these email addresses, you can take your social relationships to the next level. You are in control of this list and what you do with it. Your next steps will most likely be more of the same strategy as the one you use on social media - you will help, inform, inspire and entertain but in a place that is yours and that you can control.
It can only be a good thing to stop all this social media number obsession. It feels to me that this is the way social media will mature. And being in more control of your own destiny has to be a good thing.
Thanks for reading! I hope that you found this post interesting. I’d love to know your thoughts so, if you have a spare minute, please do leave a comment in the box below.
Take care, Jane x