Soon after the first status messages go up on Facebook, there is a panic when the number of people following your accounts don’t reach critical mass within the first two weeks. The comparison to mailing lists and distribution databases start to come up. (Can’t we BUY followers?) More followers equals more people to broadcast cleverly-crafted marketing messages to. What good is spending all this time (a.k.a. money) on these channels if we don’t have a hundred thousand followers consuming our messages? Why don’t more people want to read what we are broadcasting? Why don’t they like us?
To put it bluntly, numbers matter.
Collecting numbers just for the sake of having numbers isn’t the goal. Often times the quality of “the numbers” is overlooked. Easy question – would you rather have 10,000 ‘fans’ that don’t really care what you are about and ignore you, or 500 ‘fans’ that are actively seeking information on your products or services? Of course even with 500 ‘fans’ you can get impatient and wonder why your widget isn’t flying off the shelf or customers aren’t lined up out the door. Christopher Penn has always said if you are selling Gulfstream G5 jets, and only need to sell one every two years to live like a king – you only need two followers, one of which is ready to buy a jet, and one that knows someone that wants to buy a jet. You need to find the right numbers.
Just as you most likely didn’t have people banging down your door the day you opened for business, social media channels take time (and trust) to cultivate. Today’s companies have no patience for waiting for growth. Some remember the good ol’ days of double-digit growth and customers lined up outside their door with bags of money. Some think that offline success translates directly into online success. Some see social media is an instant ticket to success. More yet assume old tactics and campaigns can be flipped to social platforms and work (even if they didn’t work before). You not only have to think outside the box, you need to take a match, set the box on fire, roast marshmallows, then build a new one. Hard work? Yes. Difficult? No.
If you’ve listened to what people have to say, you will know how to treat your numbers and how to grow them. The key to all of this is to be sure you NEVER treat your ‘fans’ as numbers. It’s important never to assume just because someone ‘fans’ or follows you, you have permission to spew as much marketing copy at them as you please. Having someone follow you in social media circles merely means they are receptive in watching you and seeing if you can provide value or solutions to their life. If you can’t produce, they ignore you, un-follow/friend, or worse yet, tell *their* friends how invaluable you are to them.
All this listening is boring. We want ACTION! We want followers! When do we get to talk about how awesome we are!? We want sales driven directly from Twitter and our Facebook page. We don’t have time to actually listen and try to provide value to people so they will fan & follow us. We have *real* work to do during the day. Do you expect me to hang out on Twitter all day? My boss will think we are goofing off.
If you are not listening, and not contributing, why would people want to follow you? What’s in it for them? Every single time you post an update or tweet, ask yourself that question. Telling people what you have on sale, what your product offering is, what award your firm just won – this isn’t providing value to them. Your ‘peacocking’ (our team’s term for trying to brag online and think people will be impressed, think your important, and want to follow you). Where’s the value? Having 20% off of all toddler shoes this week is fine, but if you offer 20% off all toddler shoes this week when you come in and have your child professionally fitted benefits them. See the difference?
So how do you find the right numbers? You listen. You help. You promote others. You offer value, information, and assistance. You LISTEN (it’s worth repeating). By listening and responding, without asking for or expecting a sale in return, is how you grow your numbers. Of course there is much more to gaining quality ‘fans’ and followers (depending on your goals and industry – to name just two of two dozen variables) but listening is always a rock solid start. By showing that you are a good listener and can provide value (“what’s in it for me?”) and interesting content – THEN you may have earned a ‘fan’ or follower. The minute you start being noise instead of information – you’re history.
Start by searching within the platforms you are looking to build a presence on. What to search for? People that are having conversations about your company, your products, lateral industries, key phrases related to your industry, you competitors, your geographical area, or anything loosely linked to your interests. Think of it like this, what phrases or ideas would you be listening for during a conversation at a (in-person) networking event to help identify someone as a prospect to talk to?
Search.Twitter.com and Facebook.com/search are the first places to go to start seeing what conversations are taking place. Need something more comprehensive? Google Alerts is the best (free) option for searching the billions of pieces of information that show up every day on the web. Once you outgrow the basic free tools, platforms such as Radian 6 help you not only search out information, but help manage your brand online and streamline your team’s outreach efforts.
The more people that are genuinely interested in you, the more sucessful you will be in social media. Success doesn’t always equal money, success means meeting the goals you’ve laid out for your company during the strategy process. You did think about why you need to be active in social marketing and what you want to accomplish? Right?