Why social media engagement isn’t just a numbers game

Traditional media measurement has always been pretty straightforward and transparent. TV programmes win ratings battles on the number of viewers they attract, newspapers trade on their circulation and readership figures. Those with the largest figures shout loudest - biggest is best. Of less importance is the level of engagement or interest that people hold for the media they consume.

Little wonder then, that when brands started jumping on the social media bandwagon, a number of them wanted to attract as many fans and followers as possible. It stands to reason, that in media terms, size matters; the more fans and followers you attract, the more powerful a presence your brand has in social media.

Except of course it doesn’t.

Social media operates with a different set of rules and in this jungle, engagement is king. There is little point having a large number of fans if most of them are ghosts, having joined and fleetingly registered their interest - never to be seen again. Although an inflated fan count may help to boost your brand’s credibility, these hordes of dormant followers are of little practical use for generating online advocacy.

If your brand has small but highly active group of followers, it is much more likely to generate positive online word of mouth than a much larger but inert one. Your social media recruitment and retention strategy needs to be based around building a quality fan base that is sustainable in the long term.

Recruitment is a key issue here. In addition to organic growth, many brands offer rewards and promotions to attract members. Not surprisingly many would-be fans just take the money and run, without contributing to the brand other than clicking the follow button. Not surprisingly paying for someone to be your friend doesn’t work in the long term. True engagement is earned rather than bought, so it’s better to focus on content and referrals for quality growth. Promotions have their place to boost numbers, but try to tie them in with your brand. Giving away brand vouchers is one thing, but enabling customers to discuss and display their voucher-related purchases online has far more traction.

Engagement is improved through building a relationship with your fans and this is an ongoing process. Therefore it’s worth bearing in mind the timing of incentives within this process. In terms of targeting your resources, rewarding fans who simply click “likes” is unlikely to get the same return as, rewarding participation in activities such as research, where fans already have a closer relationship with you. 

Once your brand has built an engaged fan base – keeping it active is another key issue. Fans are such a huge asset. Because engagement leads to advocacy, it makes sense to get the most out of them. This doesn’t just happen overnight, brands need to have structured and systematic approach to nurturing engagement into advocacy .

It’s vitally important to identify your most active followers and key influencers. This can be done automatically through active web listening so that it is easier to hear what they have to say and to respond directly when necessary.

Also through active web listening and social media applications, you can recruit fans directly into your own branded online communities.Here they can share brand experiences, keep video diaries and take part in tasked activities. Not only are they creating content that will generate advocacy, but also helping the brand to co-create new products and solutions.

Your online research activity also helps inform the digital campaigns used to boost fan membership and activity. By getting your social media research and marketing working together you produce better, more effective campaigns, create a vibrant fan base, with an active community that is the source for compelling content, testimonies and brand stories.

Ultimately you get your fans to help co-create better products and become brand advocates, adding value to your brand through participation.

Or would you rather have a million faceless followers?




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