Is it just me or does it seem like lots of people use social media tools like virtual popularity contests?
Of course, Ashton and Oprah—the cool kids—have their prolific legions of followers on Twitter. Yet I get tweets all the time from other Twitter users, direct messaging me about how they got “2,000 followers in 5 days and you can, too.” I click on their heads out of vague curiosity, and sure enough, some of these tweet-masters have upwards of 20,000 followers. And apparently, I ended up as one of ‘em (because I set up auto-follow on TweetLater.com, back when I was convinced numbers were everything, too).
The head counting doesn’t stop at Twitter. There’s the friend count on Facebook, the connections count on LinkedIn, the number of fans on business/fan pages or members in an online group and total hits per day for blogs. I observe some of my LinkedIn connections getting 10, 15, 20 new connections a day. Other than my colleague whose business is leading LinkedIn training sessions and a few others with nationally known profiles, I can’t fathom how these people are collecting other people with such rapidity—let alone finding any usefulness in it.
Mind you, I write a blog about social media. I work with some genuine gurus in this realm, and they’ve earned followings of hundreds or thousands because of their consistent offerings of useful knowledge. But as I observe the growing ranks of count collectors, I’m reminded why I focused this blog on the needs of small business. Most of us in the trenches are mere mortals who will only have time for social media if it brings legitimate results.
I consult daily with clients who would typically rather have a handful of committed customers than a sea of disinterested acquaintances. Sure, there are times you need to cast a net in the sea to find the loyal clientele. Still, most of us can’t realistically grow business while being tossed about in the current; we need to net our catch and bring it on board.
How do we discern when the count counts? Here are some thought starters.
Numbers matter when
…you are selling a product or service with mass appeal (consumer or b-to-b).
…you are seeking to build a reputation with a very large audience or with multiple audiences.
…you are building a social media-based business, in which numbers of followers validates your status as an expert.
…you are seeking advertising or sponsorship for your online endeavor.
…you are building online buzz that will affect the validity of an offline venture.
…you are casting the aforementioned wide net in order to catch a fresh round of committed customers.
The acquisition of lots of people online is not innately greedy. But it can be time consuming, and in some cases it may actually intrude on business goals.
In a past posting entitled “Don’t Use Twitter…Until You Know Why or How to Do So,” I recount (pun intended) my Twitter tale. I ended up following so many people, I diluted the usefulness of this service for my purposes. Yesterday, I talked about the art of starting a group with a scope narrow enough to target the right people yet deep enough to invite great conversation and variety; a broad-sweeping group often yields less fruit than a manageably sized one with a targeted topic/purpose.
Everybody raves how Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh uses Twitter (621,029 followers as of this morning) and social media so effectively. He’s getting loads of press for his effective if not obsessive tweeting, and many equate Zappos popularity to Hsieh’s online bantering. I don’t know about that.
All I know is, long before anybody was tweeting, I emoted old school style to all my friends about ordering a pair of snazzy heels at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday and having them on my doorstep by noon Wednesday. If Zappos can satisfy my shoe obsession in less than 24 hours, I couldn’t care less about the CEO’s Twitter tally. I know what really counts.