Blog Clinic: Social media - numbers or engagement?
The world of social media just keeps expanding - and sometimes, it can feel like a never-ending battle to keep pace. In this week's Blog Clinic, Vicky Charles of Single Mother Ahoy looks at whether we should be striving to build our social media following - or whether it's an engaged audience that really counts.
How many Twitter followers do you have? What about Facebook fans? Instagram followers? Pinterest? Google+? Periscope?
Often when we 'meet' someone new online, our first judgements are made on their social media stats – whether we're intimidated by thousands of Twitter followers, or dismissive of a paltry number of likes on Facebook.
But here's the thing: a big following means nothing, if those followers aren't paying attention.
I follow thousands of people on Twitter; my newsfeed moves so quickly I can't even hope to keep up. So I don't. I make lists, and stay up-to-date with select groups – I rarely see updates from the rest. Why do I tell you this? Because it's true for a lot of people.
Most of the people we 'follow', we don't actually follow. So that person with 10,000 followers might look really influential and important, but in reality, they're probably not seeing posts from the majority of them – much less interacting with them.
Many of us aspire to have thousands of followers. We might join 'like ladders' on Facebook or blog linkys where you have to follow the few people ahead of you in the hope of adding a precious few more. It can be really tempting when running a competition, to require that entrants follow you on Twitter in order to enter the competition. That's great, right? Because all these people will follow you on Twitter and like your Facebook page and then you'll have loads of fans… right? Nope. What you'll get is an artificially inflated number of followers who are not following. Lots of people have several dummy Twitter accounts just for entering competitions. It's likely you'll have several of those following you, and the owner of those accounts only logs in when they need to enter another competition.
The number of followers we have is mostly a vanity metric: it's important only for our ego. What is important is growing an engaged following. Whatever you're promoting - whether it's a blog, business or charity - you need an audience that's interested in what you have to say. People who don't just scroll past your Facebook posts, but who click your links and comment on your posts and remember that you had a hospital appointment on Thursday, and how did it go? A hundred of those people are worth so much more than a thousand people who only liked or followed you as a requirement for something else.
Imagine yourself standing in a busy crowd, trying to shout your message: 'read my blog post' or 'buy my products'. Try as you might to attract attention to yourself, these people are concerned with their own business; they can't hear you, and they're not interested. Now, picture the alternative: you're standing on a low platform, in front of a small crowd of people who are all facing you in silence, waiting to hear what you have to say.
My point is that it doesn't matter how many followers you have. Work on building a relationship with the people who are there. Pay attention to what they're saying to you, as much as you want them to pay attention to what you're saying. You might learn from them, or find brilliant topics for your blog posts based on the discussions you have. You might even find that you make great friends with the people who have stumbled upon your posts by accident.
If you engage with your audience well, more people will be attracted to that and your following will grow naturally. What you have right now is enough, even if that's only twenty people.