Social Media Success: Quit Obsessing Over the Numbers

Kevin Fawley
Kevin Fawley Digital Marketing Strategist, Haymakrr Media

Posted on June 26th 2011

Social Media Success: Quit Obsessing Over the Numbers


ImageOne of the most common questions we get asked at SoMeGo is:

‘What is the best tool for monitoring and measuring social media success?’

The problem with this question is there is no universal answer. It really can only be answered on a case-by-case basis. Here are a few pieces of advice to think about while searching for your answer.

What are your goals?

You must first step back and look at the goals you (or your customer) have set for using social media. Are you looking for higher web traffic (which would be a very generic goal), pushing sales messages (a huge NO-NO) or are you using it to genuinely engage your customers and leverage sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. to start building a real community around your brand.

Social Media is only a piece of the puzzle

There is a HUGE misconception that social media in and of itself is a marketing strategy. The truth is, social media is just a very powerful tool or platform (the 'what'). Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. give us an amazing opportunity to run contests (the 'how'), share quality content, engage with our customers, all to build actual human “I care about you” (the 'why') relationships that go well beyond the impersonality or faux-intimacy of typical marketing communications.

Numbers mean very little  

Honestly, forget the numbers. At least for the first few months. Try focusing on a few of the following questions. How many times have you '@' mentioned someone on Twitter? How many new, genuine friendships have you made? How many comments are you getting on your blog or when you share content on your Facebook page? Is the content you’re sharing relevant to your audience?

You could have A MILLION followers on twitter and I wouldn't give a damn if I saw you weren't actively engaging with a single one of those followers. With social media, it’s better to be heavy on quality and light on quantity than the other way around.

With all that being said, I rock Hootsuite. What tools are you using to measure you social media success?

Kevin Fawley

Kevin Fawley

Digital Marketing Strategist, Haymakrr Media

Digital Marketing & Social Media Strategist. Come hit me up on twitter where I tweet about social media, entrepreneurship, startups, tech, business, and leadership; @kevinfawley.

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Posted on June 26th 2011 at 8:02AM


I totally agree on the fact that one should not focus on the numbers, Here is a conversation that you would often hear:
Marketing Manager: "I want more followers"
Agency: "Why?"
Marketing Manager: "Cause that is the only metric my boss can understand"
Considerable effort needs to be performed in order to build a community that sustain growth and constantly engage with the brand. Focusing on numbers only will eventually lead to a burden and an increase in the investment required to engage. I have an article on my blog related to this topic:

I totally agree on the fact that one should not focus on the numbers, Here is a conversation that you would often hear:
Marketing Manager: "I want more followers"
Agency: "Why?"
Marketing Manager: "Cause that is the only metric my boss can understand"

Considerable effort needs to be performed in order to build a community that sustain growth and constantly engage with the brand. Focusing on numbers only will eventually lead to a burden and an increase in the investment required to engage. I have an article on my blog related to this topic:


Thank you for posting such article.


Kevin Fawley
Posted on June 26th 2011 at 2:48PM

Hey Riad,


  You're absolutly right that focusing on the numbers and not the engament will ineviitbly fail and you'll end up spending more time, money, and sweat in the longrun.

  It's so important that any social media manager, firm, or consultant make it clear from the begining that building a community, THE RIGHT WAY, takes time and only focusing on the number of followers isn't a good metric for meseauring success. 

 Thanks for commenting.

Jillian Ney
Posted on June 26th 2011 at 9:36AM

Hi Kevin, good post! I personally believe that numbers don’t matter that much, although it can fall on deaf ears. In my opinion creating an active community and value to your stakeholders is the most important thing.  Thanks for the post, I can now show that I’m not the only one who thinks this! 



Kevin Fawley
Posted on June 26th 2011 at 2:56PM

Hey Jillian,


   What a great comment. Yes, 'creating an active community' is such an important thing to be focusing on. It's our job to educate those 'deaf ears.' If we can make them understand that the numbers will come as long as we keep providing quality blog posts (content & context) and are authenticly engaging our customers across the social web.

   Trust me, you're NOT alone!



Posted on June 26th 2011 at 12:20PM

Hi Kevin,

Agree with you. Nowaday marketers mad with Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers, Linkedin connections, while they should focus on the conversion rate, click thru rate and return on investment. They proud of those numbers, but eventually they out of business because of so mad about those numbers.

Kevin Fawley
Posted on June 26th 2011 at 2:59PM

Hey Kent,


   Haha. You're so right. They aren't focusing on the big picture and their business is definetly going to suffer because of that. Thanks for the comment!



Posted on June 26th 2011 at 11:28PM

Hi Kevin! 

I agree. The numbers aren't the be all, end all indicator. It all depends on how actively engaged that community is that has been built and in order to build it you too must be actively engaged. Unfortunately, many want immediate indications of results however what they don't seem to understand is that it takes time and a genuine interest. Giving it time and consistent effort is what will make a difference. 

I use a variety of tools. I use TweetDeck, which I particurly love for monitoring conversation with @mentions, lists and hashtag chats. I love Crowdbooster to analyze followers, supporters, etc. It really takes a look at what you are doing and what impact it is having on your audience. I have also started to use it for some minor scheduling of tweets and then I also use CoTweet to schedule tweets. I do not schedule tweets for myself or often, but with managing various client accounts it does come in handy in some instances. I've heard HootSuite is great, but have not used it myself. 

Thanks for the post Kev. 


Kevin Fawley
Posted on June 27th 2011 at 12:57PM

Hey Cinzia,


   Thanks for sharing your toolbox w/ us! I've messed around w/ Crowdbooster a few times and definetly liked it. Everyone I know who uses it is always raving about how great it is! CoTweet is another great resource. I'm sure all the readers will be checking all these out and thanking you later.

   Appreciate all the insights. Have a great week. 



Posted on June 27th 2011 at 1:31AM

I agree with the fact that people need to stop worrying about the numbers. Especially in corporate America. But, its an unnecessary evil. The more I work with bigger and bigger companies, and the more that I have to sit there and try to advocate for Social Media, I am finding that people are only doing it these days because "everyone else is" and because they think that it is impossible to escape. As you mentioned, setting goals and using social media to solve for different business scenarios will really help executives define what it is that they are really getting out of utilizing Social Media. For example, using Social Media as a customer service tool that helped 5,000 customers with product or service issues has some serious value. Marketers need to be prepared and educated and join these discussions so that they can find more and more ways to advocate for this marketing medium.

I think that there needs to be a mentality change also. You mention that pushing sales messages is a no-no... well... to the defense of executives, why not? Especially since they don't understand the any other benefits of Social Media. At the end of the day executives need to see the value in having the consumer voice be so readily available to them rather than having to pay for focus groups and surveys for every little thing. Gaining insight and feedback, as well as pushing knowledge to the masses are the proper ways to utilize Social Media, on top of engaging as well.

Also, the mindset needs to be shifted from primarily using Social Media as a way to drive conversions. in some industries Social Media is a great tool to use to help drive conversions. I think conversions will come when Social Media is done correctly. The same thing with SEO. IF your strategy fits what you are trying to accomplish, the conversions from your organic traffic will come.

Kevin Fawley
Posted on June 27th 2011 at 1:17PM

Hey Amara,


   I'd have to agree with most of what you said but the focus of this post wasn't so much on larger companies and corporations so much. Rather on those just starting to build their social presence. 

   Of course you want to use social media for conversions. But if you haven't taken the time to understand the playing field, see who the leaders are, how your customers are interacting throughout the sites, and started creating your own content then you really don't have much to be measuring. If I started a twitter account tomorrow, followed a few people and started blasting "WE'VE GOT EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED, COME BUY IT TODAY, WE'LL EVEN GIVE YOU 20% OFF" here is what would happen:

  1. I'd look like an a**hole 

  2. No one would see it

  3. The few who came across it wouldn't give a damn b/c they see my only intention is to make sales. You've got to put the elbow grease in and establish yourself. Then absolutly you can use social media to drive sales and conversions. Because now you're a trusted leader in your niche. Not everyone is Pepsi and has this huge audience waiting for them once they sign up a facebook page. Most business need to spend time looking for their customers and learning how to engage them as a person, not a sales pitch. 


 Thanks for such a great comment. I love hearing everyone's prospective on the ROI topic. Even if I don't totally agree w/ them :)



Anthony Aquino
Posted on June 27th 2011 at 9:01AM
I am not sure that your title is the right one. You suggest focusing on some other questions but 75% of those deal with quantifying results aka the numbers (ie. they start with "How many....") - Social is a valuable involves not just engaging with the followers (PR) but also sifting out valuable consumer feedback, ideas for improvement, etc. (eg. How many customer ideas or improvements did you get this month?) that and your questions below show, marketers always obsess over one number or another.... - In the end, social media will be a lot like an automated/online focus group (perhaps not scientifically chose and therefore not representative?? were focus groups ever really representative?). I agree for the most part that quantifying results misses the point. ------------------------------------------------ Try focusing on a few of the following questions. How many times have you '@' mentioned someone on Twitter? How many new, genuine friendships have you made? How many comments are you getting on your blog or when you share content on your Facebook page? Is the content you’re sharing relevant to your audience?
Kevin Fawley
Posted on June 27th 2011 at 1:30PM



   I'm not litterally asking you to count the amount of '@' mentions that you've sent. I'm simply trying to say that getting 50 people to like a post doesn't mean squat if you don't then follow up and respond back to your customers.

  I see SO MANY social media 'experts' who are able to churn up some traffic or create a decent level fan base but then they get lazy and don't take the extra step of reengaging or thanking their customers for the valueable feedback.

  I spent 5 hours yesterday trying to individually thank each person who shared my post. I'm probably not even up to half of them but you better believe I'll spend another 5 hours today doing that again. Not because I'm hoping to lock them down as clients but because I'm extremly humbled by the amount of shares and I geninuly give a shit. Can you measure the ROI of every personal converstaion I've had, or how many friendships I've just made. Probably not. But do both you and I really know how valuble, rather invaluble, those conversations are. And that right there is the point I'm trying to make. 

  Glad you gave me the chance to dig a little dipper. Thanks for again for commenting, Anthony.



Posted on July 2nd 2011 at 6:50PM

There you go....quantifying "Thank You" notes...I bet you know 'how many' that you sent!   Seriously, thanks for spurring a nice online discussion. 

100% agree that you can drive 'numbers'/traffic/etc but all for naught if there is no follow up / subsequent interaction!  

Posted on June 27th 2011 at 12:17PM

Your article title is misleading - you say forget the numbers, but after your 3rd sentence in your "Forget the Numbers" paragraph, there are three questions posed that all ask for numbers. Clearly, you solely meant "Forget the number of followers" number - which is a rudimentary ideal held by anyone who has managed social media for a company before. You're trying to convince those who have already been convinced - the difficult part is convincing those who are unfamiliar - those not reading Now, I'm not dense, I understand that you're basically telling people not to focus too heavily on the numbers in the beginning, because building the community first will allow for the numbers to follow, and follow in greater abundance at a later date; but this isn't a new insight and is basically rehashing content that has been reiterated time and time again on socialmediatoday.

Not to bash on you, but as the Director of Social Media at a Social Media Marketing Firm, I'm (as well as probably most readers of this website) looking for content that is really going to be better than this - This is one of the points that you address here in your article. In my estimation, people who read socialmediatoday are going to be people who are active in social media and are really looking for groundbreaking content that can improve what they do in their workplace.

Kevin Fawley
Posted on June 27th 2011 at 2:19PM



  I appreciate your opinion but you don't have a clue what you're talking about. If you want to sit down and have a 'social media off' name the time and place and I'll be there. 

  This site is not written for 'experts' it's written for EVERYONE who is interested in social media. And while you might have a solid grasp on how to use social media and help your customers the real truth is MOST people don't. MOST people are just starting to jump on board and need to learn the basics. They WANT to learn the basics. You're exactly whats wrong w/ social media. You make stupid, because I said so, comments that you 'feel' are the truth, when in fact you really don't have a clue what the real numbers or real information says. Then, you write a comment to simply call me an idiot and make me look like a fool when you don't know a thing about me. Spend some time getting to KNOW the readers before calling people out based off 'Joe's hunch.'

  It takes a real egotistical prick to write a comment like that. You're a 'social media expert' and you didn't even set up your avatar. Take a look at the numbers, Joe, and tell me the readership at Social Media Today doesn't care about this:

    Number of reads: OVER 2,800

    Number of total shares: OVER 800

    TOP 100 OF ALL TIME. 


Looks to me like they DO care.




Posted on June 27th 2011 at 12:43PM

kevin - i work for Fortune 100 companies and small ones, so I am completely in agreement with "obsessing" about the numbers.   now  having said that, social is a new era of communication when most companies and people are in the older era.  Numbers do mean something.  I am not just saying How many thousands of people like my brand, Like my offer or buy my stuff.  Those are easy targets that big companies need to see.  


Klout also is a number we obsess over, companies and individuals.  This is a throw back to the Q ratings for celebs hawking endorsements.  Look as long as $ are associated with relationships, there is going to be a way to measure it.   You don't raise an issue of social media, you raise an issue of economics.  In that regard, the world is obsessed to the point where most inhabitants are chasing the number and forgetting to live.  

To that latter endeavor I recommend to your readers the book Blue Zones

Posted on June 27th 2011 at 7:21PM

Hey Kevin you are spot on about the quality over quantity! It will win out ever time. I have one tool that I use and it works on any platform, and that tool is......

Your feed! If you are talking more then you are listening, then it is time to do something different! It may sound to simple for some, but it works for me.


Cheers Beanie

Posted on July 1st 2011 at 2:05AM

Hi, Kevin


I do agree 100% with you and did not find any misleading information on your post. As a matter of fact, I do believe all things should be expressed that clearly and to the point. Most people are been taken on the wrong direction by talking about "effectiveness" and "results" when it comes to social media strategies as if it were the "final resource" to make things happen, when after all, it is simply an additional tool and it should be considered as such.


I do believe that people looking into going "social" should ask themselves first whether their customers are also there, otherwise they are simply going to be frustrated after trying to reach a person that is simply not there.


People, and specially those with less experience, should not forget about the basics: know your product, know your customer, and know your competitors. After gathering such knowledge one should be able to decide whether going "social" would be a good thing to do... or not.


Thanks for the post. It was really good!



Posted on July 5th 2011 at 9:09AM

Hi Kevin,

Had this open in my browser for past few days, putting aside to read.

Good stuff. I agree that for many individuals and businesses starting out, it is easy to get distracted by the numbers - which totally defeats the purpose of genuine engagement. And can be destructive if tracking becomes a daily "fix": "Oh! My number of followers went up/down from last week, etc." Hey, in all transparency, it happened to me when I started out. And I still have to knock that devil off my shoulder from time to time.

I do think it is important to be aware of, to understand, analytics. Just to monitor your blog performance both from a technical (load times, etc.) and marketing aspect (page design). There is a human aspect to those numbers that can help you improve and engage (e.g. respecting your users geographics when scheduling webinars, etc.)

Will be sharing this article with colleagues and clients.



Manal Shacra
Posted on July 12th 2011 at 4:43AM

It most definitely isn't all about numbers... that's why data mining and curation platforms have become crucial. Platforms like DataSift that narrow a big heap of information into concise and relevant information are there to suit only the needs of the reader and get rid of noise. And this is all in real time, data mining platforms like DataSift not only sift out the relevant latest but also provide augmentations that allow control of the data. Augmentations include language, sentiment analysis, searching by geography or demographics and more. It's partnered with Lexalytics and PeerIndex so it can perform various functions that take you to the next level of searching the web. What's more it has a license with Twitter so it misses nothing and you search for information from Facebook, Digg, Sixapart, GoogleBuzz and Wordpress. No limits to social media sources. I'd recommend it to any large company making complex searches for their marketing, research or any project that depends on real time information. Free to try through here-

Posted on August 1st 2011 at 2:26PM

Hi Kevin,

Great blog and totally agree it seems that many businesses concentrate so much on their numbers that they forget about engaging with fans, followers, clients etc.  I'm a member of a great group on FB and in the beginning of this group many concentrated on their Alexa numbers that they didn't support the rest of the members which is by far a shame.  

I'm off to tweet and post on my fan page and other groups I'm a member of.  THANKS!

Posted on August 1st 2011 at 4:35PM

Exactly!!  Such a great point....I think it can become a bit of an obsession at times for people...constantly watching to see how many fans they have instead of focusing on building relationships and adding value!!  Thanks for pointing it out so well!! :-D