Social Media Isn’t About The Numbers! Or Is It?

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. If you ask me what my Klout score is…I’ll likely vomit.

Too many folks get caught up in the numbers game when it comes to social media. They use numbers like “friends”, “followers” and…ewww…”Klout” to determine whether they are doing social right. The problem is, you can buy friends and followers online through your local black hat shopping cart and no one really knows what a Klout score actually means. Heaven knows that it doesn’t tell you whether you’re engaging in social media properly.

So, should you ignore the numbers? Maybe. Maybe not.

What do your social media statistics tell you about your content? Is it good? Do your followers like it?

Just like any feedback from your audience, your numbers are an important part of evaluating social media success, but they aren’t your the only factors. For instance, take the poor chap in the cartoon above. He’s been tweeting like mad and is sooo proud to have tweeted for the 10,000 time. To what avail? Does anyone like his tweets? Is he one of those annoying Twitter Noobs who simply tweets what he’s eating, where he checked-in on Foursquare, and quotes from popular authors/politicians? In his 10,000 tweets, did he actually ever contribute to the conversation? Or are his tweets simply noise that are clogging up the Twitterverse?

I’m not saying that he should solely judge his effectiveness in the social space by his follower numbers, but if he’s tweeted 10,000 times and only 18 people have shown interest…I recommend he seriously takes a look at the time/energy he is putting into Twitter and determine whether the outcomes are justifying the time spent.

In fact, this poor soul is pretty representative of a lot of folks trying to get the hang of social media and he probably also has a blog where he publishes links to his online affiliate programs, reposts articles from other blogs (without permission, of course) and is packed with Ads. Why? Because he doesn’t have a clue as to how to become a contributing member of the social space. Trust me…the Web is PACKED with these folks!

Don’t believe me? Google’s Panda algorithm updates are targeting exactly these types of blogs and has already penalized thousands of sites.

So, what numbers should you be paying attention to? I like to focus on those that indicate some level of engagement and interaction. For instance:

On Twitter – I focus on retweets and lists. I love to see one of my articles getting a lot of retweet love. It means that my followers are enjoying my content and found it useful enough to share with their followers. I also love to see it when people add my Twitter handle to a list. It means they took the time to group me with others that tweet similar content to me. I have found some of my favorite authors because a Twitter follower added me to a list.

On Facebook – For Facebook, Likes are good…Shares are better! Likes indicate that someone enjoyed the content, but a share means they spread it through their social network similar to a retweet. To be honest, I’ll take a share over a Like any day!

On LinkedIn – For me, LinkedIn is about good connections! To be honest, I love that LinkedIn is now feeding me articles that are popular with those that I connect with. I find it a lot easier to find business-related articles since I limit my LinkedIn network to those that I really want to engage with professionally. I don’t just connect with anyone on LinkedIn, you have to offer business value to my career. So my number of connections and the interactions I have with them is the key number on this platform.

On My Blog – For my blog, it’s all about daily visitors. I don’t engage in Black Hat SEO to try to artificially inflate visits to my site. I engage in organic social media promotion, sharing my articles on platforms with those who I think would be interested in social media. I primarily focus on generating traffic from Twitter, Facebook, Empire Avenue and Google organic searches. Has it taken me 2 years to attract 1,000 visitors/day? Yes. Am I proud of the visitors who come to my site? ABSOLUTELY! Because they’re coming to learn about social media…not because I bought an online package that will “send 1,000 visitors to your site every day”.

So, it’s easy to sit back and say that social media isn’t a numbers game. But in a way, it is. You just have to make sure you’re focusing on the right numbers. Those that tell you that you’re contributing to the conversation and not just taking up cyberspace.

Have other numbers that you find meaningful? Think I’m full of bunk? I’m always up for engagement in the comments section! Looking forward to the chat!



Comments And Reactions

  1. Gaye Crispin says:

    Great read Sean and I always appreciate the insights you offer.…. that tweet junkie in your cartoon reminds me of me when I first joined twitter.

    • Thanks, Gaye! I always appreciate the feedback. I think all of us have been a bit of a tweet junkie at some time or another…it’s one of the draws of Twitter 😉



  2. Had a conversation about this with other great bloggers last week. It’s an interesting topic because if you grow your social media numbers organically, it may take a while but you’re likely to get more engaged folks – which is really what you want.

    But if you want to speed things up, giveaways or freebies that ask readers to follow via different social media avenues are effective, but it’s sort of a hit and miss. You don’t know if they’ll really be engaged or not but at least you gain more exposure because one of these days, one of your tweets or facebook updates may catch their eye.

    • I completely agree with the organic growth, Anne! If you build your relationships slowly, they are soooo much better than just trying to get 1,000 followers. I love the posts/conversations that happen in my Twitter feed because I was choosy in who I followed. I hope the people who follow me feel the same way 😉



  3. I don’t think it’s about the numbers, but rather engagement. Great article!

  4. I think both statements are true: on the one hand numbers do matter as I myself tend to be influenced by numbers when sharing posts, retweeting stuff, liking fanpages etc. On the other hand high numbers alone are not sufficient, offering high quality content is much more important!

  5. Colin Turnbull says:

    I think it comes down to what you want to accomplish. A good metric is the percentage of your followers engaging. If you have a decent number then it can be about the numbers

  6. We have been studying this phenomenon and it is even more intriguing than just numbers of followers and tweets. It really comes down to your goals…

    If you are looking to connect with a certain demographic or market segment, you need to tailor your activity to maximize your objectives.

    For example, if I am trying to reach industry leaders who only follow a few people, joining a tweet chat that spams their feed makes no sense at all even if it blows out your impressions. Likewise, if you are trying to attract folks who look at your numbers of followers and tweets, active participation and a high volume of non value added tweets may work for you.

    But like everything else, knowing your goal before you start is the key to success.

  7. LUBStraining says:

    Great article!

  8. I’ve been getting some use out of recently. I’ve got a daily webcomic at which I’ve been pinning to its own board; a couple months into this, that board is closing in on two hundred followers.

    Technically, I’m just giving people a way to read the comic without having to hit the site. But, as people like and repin strips, that spreads the word and ultimately gets me more visitors. So that’s working out, to some extent.

  9. Numbers matter when put into relation to matters that matter. Opening a fridge wholesale on a small island would also produce some numbers.

    For me it’s more about the reputation, what I spread, like, up, etc.. Who I want to be associated with. Do I feel comfy with the stuff ? And how far am I being bribable to do things knowingly or unknowingly ?

    So for your 10,000 tweets 18 followers guy . . . if they’re happy, they may be.

  10. MARY WICKLIFFE George says:

    I love your blogs

  11. Yes and no. You need numbers. But number is not the only thing. Quality engagement is equally important.

  12. Very interesting article. It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to clean up my «virtual spaces» to focus on stuff that really matters 🙂

  13. Good observations. Thanks for posting. For many of us it is so easy to get caught up in the numbers. As I sit here I am trying to resist the urge to tweet: tying my shoe or sipping from a Star Bucks cup. I plan to share this article with some friends.

  14. So how do we make sure that we get numbers AND quality? I have tried tons of tricks but it seems easier to get either one alone than it is to get both.

  15. Sean,
    I agree with you too many times we are so focused on the numbers and the likes, etc. I do think the numbers are important and trust me I am learning how to increase my numbers, but the connections one makes it important also. I agree if people are retweeting you, you are making an impression on them. Thanks for such a clear and easy to understand way to look at social media numbers.

    Wendy Elwell

  16. It’s not about the numbers? Numbers are our friends and they sure make great dinner conversation companions, why just the other night I was able to dominate the conversation for well over an hour with all my Social Statistics. I’m sure everyone was awed and that’s why no one said a word for the whole hour…. Give me numbers or give me death…. Ya that’s the ticket…

  17. Great article, Sean. I think you’re on the money that the right numbers matter. Anyone on Empire Avenue has to have a lowered opinion of the value of Klout since it is so easy to ‘buy’ +K. (And Twitter followers and FB friends….) People look at the raw numbers, I think, because it’s harder to evaluate engagement.

  18. Great post Sean,
    Numbers do matter but people matter more.
    There is a danger of slavishly following the numbers without paying any attention to what the numbers mean.
    I am glad you have given us something to think about and to consider the meaning behind different numbers we encounter daily in social media.

  19. I so agree with you! Social media isn’t necessarily about the numbers. It is about being social!! You could have a million followers that are bots on twitter and not get a single retweet or interest in what you are saying. People who are engaging are those I want a part of my “following” !!
    Great post! 🙂

  20. The problem is that quality is so hard to measure …. so we are stuck with quantity. Now… 200 litres of free wine is worthless if it tastes crap, a glass of vintage could be better….
    Quality is both culturally and individually determined …. a dilemma.

  21. It’s about numbers making us stand out in the crowd and offering something to the other numbers.

    No, wait, I am NOT A NUMBER! :-))

  22. Really great article! Thanks for posting 🙂

  23. last Baby Boomer says:

    Let me state for the record that i do not think of myself as a social l media person. I have just shy of 12K twitter followers and I am not really sure how I got them. Before i started on empire avenue (about three months back) I would say i was getting about 20 Re-Tweets a day. The fact that I can now run a mission and get 50 within an hour goes a long way in poking holes in the bigger is better theory.

  24. Great Article Sean! I think there is a clear distinction of people who just use Twitter to connect with people they know and those who use it for a purpose, be it business, networking, content publishing/consumption.
    The numbers are useful in the short term to help show ROI in the most stringent sense, but the real value is in the long term connections you make. It’s amazing how many people I talk to who landed a job or career opportunity from someone they barely knew and met at a conference “years ago”. The social media space will only amplify this as the years go on.

  25. Tim Pixley says:

    Patrick, I agree that this all about people. Klout and all of the other tracking systems out there are systems. Anyone who’s ever programmed or been involved with system analysis knows that systems, be it computer programs, governmental, etc., can be played and abused.

  26. I suppose it depends in ones objectives. Numbers help, but 10k twitter followers 8000k of whome are bots for example isn’t much use.

  27. Great post. Agreed on both not letting numbers influence your social networking but not ignoring them either.

  28. I don’t do much tweeting, can’t really follow it all too well. I do like Facebook, just because I can see what a lot of my friends are doing. I do like Google + since there is just a wealth of information. Linked in I do use but I am not sure how to use this effectively. Pinterest I have some interaction.Great article good to know this. I guess they say the more lines you have out there the better way to catch fish, also a good way to catch new business if done with out the sales pitch.

    Now the Empire Avenue is another way to interact.

  29. Quality over quantity is the best practice though keeping in mind that you want quantity but quality based. Buying followers for example is not going to give you quality followers while focused following within your niche is going to produce better results. 10K followers dont mean much if you can only sell 1 widget.

  30. sea lily says:

    Well, I say it’s half about the numbers and half about the content. Cause no matter how many followers you have they wont ‘bite’ if you have bad content.

  31. Love the cartoon. I think it’s a combination of engagement, audience reach and, yeah, the numbers. That said, all within the context of sales. If we’re not selling in life, we are simply spinning our wheels. We gotta eat.

  32. Yeah – I know that Klout isn’t a good measure of your online influence – however, I do love the free perks that I get from them. I am a product reviewer and they give me more to blog about.

  33. Thanks for an informative article. I am working on making my social media sites effective.

  34. If a week goes by without someone asking me to retract a tweet or FB post, I’m not engaging enough ‡¡‡

  35. Couldn’t agree more! The more targeted your followers are to the content you are posting and the goals you have for your account the more engaged they will be – making Twitter more valuable for all!

    Sean – Do you go out and actively seek highly targeted / highly relevant followers for your content? Or do you just let them find you?

    • Josh,

      My favorite way to find targeted followers is to use Twitter lists. I look at the lists that I have been added to and the look at the other people on those lists. I figure that one of my followers felt that I had something in common with folks on the list, so I might as well check them out.

      Because I have a lot of different interests (tech, social media, mobile, legal, cupcakes, etc…) the variety of lists helps me find a variety of people to follow.

      Hope that helps!



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