Almost every new brand, company or organisation on Social Media faces the prospect of being judged by the number of Likes and Followers at some point. It might only be a metric that is being monitored internally, as a way of measuring the efficiency of the Marketing or Social Media Team, but it is a very real and visible number that people latch on to.
So the prospect of ‘boosting’ those figures can be very tempting, either with genuine effort or by chequebook, to make the numbers look better. Unfortunately the end user, customer or advertiser has no idea whose figures are genuine. They might not even know that it is even possible to buy Likes and Followers.
I will look at the finer details of building audiences in another blog post but I just wanted to start with how to judge the visible figures for yourself. It is not a precise or failsafe mechanism but it will give you a better starting point than just looking at overall numbers. It involves a bit of research and homework but if you’re about to pay a media company for an online marketing campaign, if you want to choose which company to buy a product from, or if you’re just interested whether that celebrity you like (or dislike!) has a genuine following, there are some ways to get a better idea.
Facebook used to include a very handy “People talking about this page” metric next to the overall likes on a business page. But they removed this in 2017. (Hint: they don’t like making it too easy for you to do your own marketing research. Facebook want you to give them your money and trust them to do it for you!)
I remember working on a Brand’s social media content a few years ago. We got very excited when the number of followers on Facebook topped 8,000 (up from less than 5,000 in less than a year). The increase was entirely genuine and organic and mostly down to more effort being put into suitable content and interacting with followers. Nothing was paid-for, not even a single Facebook Advert. So imagine our surprise when a competitor’s following jumped from 6,000 to around 25,000 overnight! It was demoralising and frustrating in equal measure.
What to look for, the quick and easy guide.
The Likes, Followers and Subscriber figures for each brand are easy to find, they don’t hide the numbers and lots of channels and brands boast about them. But what you need to look at is the level of audience interaction. If a brand has 20,000 followers on Twitter but almost every tweet gains a handful of Likes, no re-tweets and no response, then is that 20,000 figure genuine?
OK, so it might be a one off, a post from early morning, or late at night. Have a look back over the last few days and weeks. Then, either make a mental note or write it down. Heck, if you want to do it properly, record the figures in a spreadsheet.
The brands, pages and celebrities with a genuine following of real humans will soon stand out from the rest of the crowd.
So view a page on Facebook, go to the actual page not just one of their posts in your own feed. Have a look at the total number of followers, then note down the number of likes, shares and comments for the last 10 days. It doesn’t have to be precise, you just want to get an overall average figure to work with. Repeat this for a handful of other companies in the same market.
The example below shows the figures for FOUR magazines brands catering to a similar Lifestyle market.
The numbers are a bit dry and uninteresting but it does reveal something very important. The number of apparent followers varies widely from 12k to 700k. the two magazines in between post more content than the ones with the most and fewest followers but the audience interaction stats are very revealing.
I just added up the total number of likes, shares and comments over a 10 day period and divided it by the total number of posts to get the ‘Interaction Average’. I then divided this by the total number of followers each had to get the ‘Interaction/Follower Score’. (Bigger numbers are better in each instance)
What this shows is that the magazine with 700,000 followers has a very low interaction with its audience. At some point it was either much more successful at what it did to be able to build such an apparent huge following, or it bought the likes from a dodgy company in Asia (Note: There are hundreds of such dodgy organisations – you only have to be in business for a short while before you start attracting the attention of people that sell Likes and Followers).
So, based on these figures alone – I would suggest doing the same with Twitter and Instagram – you’d need to dismiss Brand C with 700k following and probably put your marketing budget with Brand A for a reasonable ROI. However, This exercise also shows that you should not dismiss Brand D. Although they have a very small following, their average audience interaction is huge in comparison. They possibly serve a very loyal but niche market and investing your marketing cash with that brand will probably pay dividends.
As with all things ‘Marketing’ related. No amount of spending will pay off if you don’t monitor the results, even a basic tick on a piece of paper to record customer phone calls is better than nothing!
I’ll follow this up with further posts covering Marketing Analytics and proper Marketing Research for large campaigns. And then there is the very contentious issue of advertising in Print magazines who all quote different figures: Print Run, ABC, Distribution, Readership, Average Sales. I’ll tell you what to ask!