Followers != Profit

a while ago I posted about how a follower count was fast becoming the new hit counter – a piece of data without any context that could get in the way of understanding what the metric for success of a social media campaign was.  The point being that it is not the number of people exposed to a message, but the level of engagement that can be reached with those people that matters.

From a marketing perspective he true value of a following on any social media platform is the way in which that following can be influenced into taking a preferred course of action – getting involved in a conversation, subscribing to a piece of information, or ultimately becoming a customer.

The most successful social communities are the ones with a cohesive interest that binds them together.  An unbound community is one where there is no shared interest, and no benefit for members.

A small community can focus attention in a particular direction and has huge inherent value, on the other hand, a community with no common interest is impotent regardless of its size.  You can see examples of this throughout history.

I recently saw this job on oDesk:

$10 for 2000 Facebook followers
$10 for 2000 Facebook followers

It’s an interesting, but not unique approach – there were dozens of similar jobs on offer, but it seems almost pointless.  This is a pretty confusing message:

On the one hand, the advert suggests that the goal is to obtain “real” fans, that is to say actual people, rather than bots or fake accounts, but at the same time, they are assigning a negligible amount of budget to the task of acquiring those fans.  $0.005 per person.

What kind of community will this build?

You can get numbers using this method, and it might be that the publisher is using this methods tactically to build credibility for a newly founded group and a foundation from which to build a genuine interest community, however it seems very cynical.

The point of social media is that groups within a network naturally align towards their interests, rather like iron filings within a magnetic field:

Iron filings in a magnetic field
Iron filings in a magnetic field

More often than not, people have similar interests to their friends, and online social platforms have become the de facto way of sharing ideas and content that appeals to a group.  There is a thrill in discovery, and kudos earned from sharing that discovery with peers.

An unnatural grouping such as would be created by simply buying in a large number of followers with out any context will fall apart.  While $10 is a tiny budget in the grand scheme of things, it looks to me as though it is a waste of money in this context.

If the advertiser invested their time in understanding what their target audience wanted, researched who the key influencers within that group were, build connections to them, and created content that would appeal to them, then they would be much more successful, and actually build a community of people that would have intrinsic value, rather than just being a number on a web page.

It’s about buy in, not tie in.

2 replies on “Followers != Profit”

  1. Loads of people are spending too much time worrying about stupid numbers when it comes to social media. How many followers. Follower to following ratio etc.

    Just do it and make it social!!! You don’t have to be the hub as long as the hub follows you and likes what you are doing.

    On a lighter note…

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