Are you Missing the Point in Social Media? It isn't about Collecting People.

I work with a lot of different clients on social media strategy – big, small, corporate,  agencies, small businesses, individuals – and one thing they all have in common is a tendency to focus on “collecting people”.

What is collecting people?

peopleOur obsession with collecting people into our network happens across most social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Blogs.  It is focussing on the number of twitter followers we have, fans in our facebook page, connections on LinkedIn, traffic on our blogs.

It is what most people obsess over.

The number people you have collected is essentially your reach – the # of people that are exposed to your message.    The second half of the equation is effectiveness.

Having a large audience can matter – I’m not saying it isn’t important – it isn’t the only thing that matters.

It Doesn’t Matter How Many People Follow/Friend/Fan you if you Don’t DO Anything with Them.

Facebook is a great example – brands invest $$ in Facebook ads to collect fans.  Some  pages have hundreds of thousands of fans.  Question: How often do you return to a Fan page after becoming a fan?  (ummm – never?).

While speaking at a conference recently I was asked “What is the value of a facebook fan?”.  Well, pretty close to zero if you don’t do anything do engage them.

Creative Matters (Just Like TV)

You don’t judge your TV copy effectiveness by  the reach of your media buy.  ROI is a function of your reach and the effectiveness of your copy.  Copy matters on social media.

You need a “big idea” to engage with people in a meaningful way.  Sure it is a different type of creative than creating copy, but you still need a strong creative strategy to connect with consumers.

You Need a Strategy

Success in social media isn’t about collecting followers or creating assets.  It is about driving results – either personal or business.

To drive results you need a clear strategy.  Who do you want to engage with and what are you offering them of value? Why should they become your follower/friend/fan/connection? How will that drive business results?

These are the key questions to ask when developing a social media strategy.  Not how many followers you have.  A month ago I asked around for business results from successful social media programs.  All of the responses focused on # of people collected.  When I asked for business results – sales, traffic to site, leads generate, awareness, engagement, etc – only a small handful could provide answers.

What Should we be Measuring?

We should be measuring (to the best of our ability) how our social media strategies are driving business results.

Your measures should flow from your objectives.  A social media strategy aimed at acquiring new customers looks very different than one aimed at  building community and advocacy with current customers.   The measures will also be different.

Measure things like:

  • Engagement – people responding to you, people talking about you, people initiating conversations with you
  • Leads – # of email addresses acquired, traffic sent to site, conversion
  • Influencers – ability to connect and build relationships with key influencers, initiating conversations with key people

There are many more potential measures based on a variety of business objectives.  First figure out your objectives and then focus on the right metrics.  Tools like twittergrader and klout can help measure these things.

So What is the Point of Social Media?

Kind of a loaded question (and not one that I can answer here).  It isn’t just collecting people.  Before you create your fan page/twitter account/linkedin group/blog/whatever else ask yourself:

  • Who do I want to engage with?
  • What do I want to talk to them about?
  • Why will they connect with me?
  • How will I add value and  engage with them?

Answering these questions before you get started will help you build a strong social media strategy that drives business results.

Thoughts?  Are others seeing the same trends?  What are your most relevant metrics?


  1. Couldn’t agree more! I see so many people on twitter cheering because they just reached X number of followers. Um…did you ever look to see if hose followers are *worth* anything to you? About a week after the Great Twitter-Spamfollow Cleanup of Aught Nine, I sat down and cleaned up my own follower list, removing followers who were defunct, MLMers, or just plain entirely irrelevant.

    Social media for me is a way to network in my jammies, but for business, it has to be meaningful, or it is, as Letterman put it, a waste of time.

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