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Your Numbers Don’t Impress Me

May 27, 2010

Recently I’ve noticed many social media “professionals” and agencies alike touting their large twitter lists, and huge facebook fan pages they’ve built for clients and so on. These professionals think that a successful following or fan base comes by gaining the largest numbers of followers possible. While they may have one thing correct, in that they are participating in social they are missing the overall idea and principal of social media. Being social.

The success in social lies within the real, transparent relationships you can create with people over the web. Hints the “social” aspect of the term social media. Companies or individuals who are their own brands (Chris Brogan, Brian Solis come to mind) that say, “Well, we have a facebook, MySpace, and twitter page with a lot of fans/followers, so we’re all set on the social front” couldn’t be more incorrect. The number of fans or followers you have on a social network means nothing. Yes, I said it. Your insanely large numbers don’t mean a thing if you didn’t go about building your brand or self the proper way. I’ll give you a few examples why this is true.

Finding the wrong people

My favorite examples of building a faux social friends is the “offer”. Companies offer something in exchange for you liking or following them on a social network. The two companies that come to mind are Atlanta Bread Company and Outback Steakhouse who at one point in time or still offer a food item in exchange for becoming their friend on facebook. In our day to day world this would be the equivalent to offering someone a free beer after work if they agreed to hang out with you. Not only is it a hokey and rather depressing way to attract fans, but it’s disingenuous. If you have to offer people something to like or befriend you on a social network they probably aren’t your true fans and they definitely are not the people you want to champion your brand.

AB cookie offer

Another more popular thing people and companies do to gain followers on twitter is the “follow me and I’ll follow you” tactic. I’ll be the first to tell you I’m no twitter master and my small profile is just fine by me. I don’t follow everyone who follows me and it’s mainly because if you don’t offer interesting content, funny thoughts or something relevant then I don’t have a use for you on my twitter feed. Nothing personal, but I just don’t want to have to rummage through pages of junk for actual content. If I did I’d go to http://www.Yahoo.com or http://www.CNN.com each morning.

my twitter profile

The social wallflowers

For whatever reason I’ve notice that some major airlines have been doing a terrible job with their social sites. When I say terrible I really mean it. These two major, Atlanta based airlines appear to have hired a firm or a digital media professional and upon creation of their pages fired them. Let’s look at AirTran first and Delta next. AirTran’s twitter page came online sometime in mid to late 2009 and have a whopping 16 tweets between the two pages. That’s right, I said 16. Easy AirTran, don’t strain yourself with the social interaction, as you’d hate rampant cases of Carpal Tunnel syndrome in the office.

Airtran twitter

Up next on our list of airline wallflowers is Delta Airlines. Being one of the world’s largest airlines you’d think they have a crazy huge following on facebook. With less than 20k fans on what appears to be a non-official page and only 8k on an official page I’m not surprised at the lack of excitement around their presence. Neither page has been updated since last year and you have zero interaction on either of the pages. Get it together guys and have one voice or facebook page that you use to communicate with. Delta’s blog is great, but my guess is much like other corporate blog sites the traffic count won’t be nearly what a great facebook page would generate.

Delta FB

delta 2 fb

How it’s done

Now; there are some companies and individuals that have huge fan pages and large followings that are doing it right. One large, Atlanta based company that does it right is Home Depot. Home Depot has a very large twitter and facebook following and they interact; yes I said interact with their fans on a daily basis. They of course don’t interact with everyone and no one expects them to, but they do interact.

HD FB page

Twitter is a different animal all together when it comes to followers and you cannot really help who follows you unless you block people, but that’s rarely ever necessary. A person who engages his large follower list quite regularly would be Chris Brogan. Now this comes as no surprise as Chris is one of the hyper successful people who has turned social media into a full time gig and he’s revered as one of the most successful social pioneers of our time. With that said no one is expecting you to be a mirror image of Chris Brogan, but why not take some of the things he does and implement them in your strategy. Namely, open, honest, frequent interaction and engagement.

Brogan

Wrap up

Now I’ve tried to showcase how large numbers in any format doesn’t mean a thing if you didn’t genuinely attract people or aren’t sure how to use those numbers to your advantage. The ability to easily gain followers on facebook or twitter is not a difficult task to grasp. Offer people free stuff, giveaways, and follow a ton of people so they will follow you back. It’s a rather simple process and one that doesn’t take much thought, energy or diligence so many people/companies are quick to adopt. However, implementing practices like these will leave you with a pool of non-influencers, and disingenuous followers. Agencies won’t tell you that nor will the goof ball that’s running your social campaign. They’ll show you great numbers and fan/followers acquired stats to impress you and show you that what you’re doing is working.

Harnessing social media and making it work for you requires work, interaction, transparency and conversation. There’s no 1-2-3 step process and it doesn’t end as long as you’re out there. The conversations keep going, so it’s up to you to talk back and make sure you’re doing your part, because your 760,768 fans won’t do it for you.

Links, tags and what not:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Delta-Air-Lines/108629084271#!/pages/Delta-Air-Lines/108629084271?v=wall
http://twitter.com/RyanGDickerson
http://twitter.com/HomeDepot
http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan
http://www.HomeDepot.com
http://blog.delta.com/
http://twitter.com/airtranair
http://twitter.com/airtran
http://www.airtran.com
http://www.delta.com
http://www.atlantabread.com
http://www.outback.com
social media, digital media, analytics, twitter, myspace, facebook, advertising, PR, agency, marketing, Justin Bieber, kittens, Obama

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4 Comments
  1. Ryan-

    First, love your Twitter background. That’s the first time I’ve seen it.

    Second, your points in this post hit the bulls-eye. Who cares if you have thousands of followers if you’re not engaging and interacting with them.

    Third, a special shout-out to @HomeDepot. I couldn’t agree with you more. They get it. I’ve always liked them, but after my interaction with them via social media, I will drive out of my way to go to their store. Which = Lifetime Customer.

    Great thoughts Ryan.

    -Adam

  2. I absolutely LOVE this post! It’s so true that numbers really don’t matter if you don’t have a relationship with them! It’s even true on my own Twitter. Out of 550+ followers, I probably talk to about 30 of them.

    Having numbers doesn’t mean a thing if you aren’t trying to build relationships with your followers, getting involved with your followers, or posting updates on the regular.

  3. Thanks for the kind words Adam and Lauren. It’s refreshing to know other people out there agree and think the same way in terms of engagement and authentic relationships.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    -Ryan

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