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Social Media and Numbers - Why They Don't Matter
Posted on December 22nd 2010
Social media is often misrepresented by numbers. Followers, website traffic,Facebook friends, community members, blog subscribers, etc. all contribute to a self-imposed goal that really yields nothing in return. The numbers that are important are your power users. The people who continue to return to your site, contribute regularly and bring in their friends to add to the discussion. I'll later break down a few of the popular social sites and how power users are identified.
Example: On a daily basis I look for new ways to improve online engagement with a demographic that is notably still deciding whether or not they want to use social media. Moreover, the demographic is still struggling to learn how to use social media, which in turn makes it difficult to use Web forums as a means of sharing ideas. While I won't divulge how much communication is occurring on our community or how much traffic we are receiving, based on PEW Internet statistics this is the norm. The demographic? Everyone between Generation X and Boomers. Increasingly though are Millennials who are becoming entrepreneurs, but there is still a large fail rate.
As testament to my ability to generate discussion amongst my peers (read: I don't simply suck), I converse frequently on the site Reddit. The demographic on there consists mostly of males between the ages of 18 through 35 [Source]. Today I opened a discussion thread with the only intention of finding out ways people have trolled or pranked their office mates. Knowing that many of my fellow redditors were mischievous, I also included one of my favorite pranks pulled during my time developing websites for the FAA. Ten hours later - there are now over 60 comments and a lively discussion involving people from many different demographics. That being said, writing to your audience is extremely important, but their demographic is still on the fence about using social media there may be a much smaller response.
With that being said, PEW Internet has also gathered what appears to be the most reliant source of information as to why the demographic may lead to a lack of quality discussion, even though your website traffic and membership numbers continues to increase.
Generation X and Boomers love to visit agency websites and get financial information. Moreover, there is a drastic increase in the amount of Gen X and Boomers looking to use social media, but again there is still a concern about how they use use it.
People are clearly online getting news and watching videos, but many people find that there is a lack of response. Your numbers may show a large amount of people viewing articles, but without direct responses it's difficult to gauge how successful you are. That being said, how important is it to you personally that you have a large audience who doesn't respond? Hint, you shouldn't claim this as a success.
Twitter - Power users are defined by people who interact regularly with the people they follow, and reach out to others that share a common interest. Don't worry about your numbers, but do try to keep the amount of people you follow equal to those following you. People fear that if you are following more people than those following you that you are either a spammer, poor personality or just talking to yourself. To reduce this concern, put celebrities and people who don't interact into lists.
- Myth - The more followers you are the more influential and social you are.
- Truth - You are only as good as your power users. Interact with them regularly.
Facebook - Facebook pages should really only be used for your friends, currently. As Facebook begins to open more to the public and compete with Twitter, it will change how you use it. I have my profile page on lock down so only friends, coworkers, and people I have a personal connection with can view a majority of my content. The amount of Facebook friends doesn't represent anything more than a number.
- Myth - More friends means more interactions
- Truth - You can't force conversations. Facebook is currently designed so you can interact with your personal friends and family. Random people will likely ignore you after they are added, and use you as a number under their profile.
Facebook Pages (business pages) - Similar to the Facebook profile, a Facebook Page can have 2,000 fans and only receive a few likes here and there. As an example, the Game news site Game Rant has 2,000 + fans, regular updates to their feed, but only a few likes can be found on the posts [Source]. Much like Twitter, the only way your fans will interact with you is to socialize the page. Ask questions, post pictures, and appeal to your audience. The interactions will naturally follow.
Myspace - If you are using this site for a business, don't.
YouTube - Post videos that are relevant to your audience, block the comment section and embed them directly into your host site or community. There is still a lot of anonymity to be found on YouTube that results in trolls.
TL:DR - People often misunderstand that when it comes to social media, quality is more important than quantity. Just because you have 20,000 members in a community that doesn't mean your demographic will respond. No responses = No Content/Site/Product/Application improvements. Be social, talk to others and most importantly be yourself. The bottom line is that if you are not being social with these social media tools, you are not doing it right.
Discussion Question: What do you find to be the most difficult part of being social with these social media tools?
[This article orginally appeared on Play This Magazine]