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Social Media: Why lots of followers doesn’t necessarily mean success (and what you should look at instead)

I’ve worked with a range of brands and businesses on their social media presence. Twitter accounts I maintain usually gain around 1000 followers a month. While these followers are targeted and engaged with on the basis of them being potential customers, not all of them are as much as a fan as you’d hope. Followers alone are not the greatest indicator of social media success. You could have 100k Twitter followers, but if only 3 are actually interested in your business or product then they’re not a very valuable audience. In fact, I worked with a musician with a pretty big following (of real people) nearing the 50k mark. Despite this, he can’t sell his music or even get a great deal of plays on his music videos. His followers are more interested in the funny content and memes he posts than the songs he makes. While it is a large following, its value can certainly be questioned.

So, if followers alone aren’t a good indicator of social media success, what is?

I place a lot more weight on engagement. How interactive are your followers? How much do they care about what you’re posting? I once had a client that was insistent on gaining as many followers as possible, no matter what. It didn’t matter to them whether they spoke the language or were even real people, they just wanted to see that number rise. Begrudgingly, I did what they asked. A few days later, they complained they looked fake because despite all these followers we were still scraping for three retweets. I look back hoping they learnt their lesson. For those of you yet to cross that bridge, here are some other indicators you can look at to see whether your social media manager is doing a decent job:

1) Engagement Rate

Now that Twitter has built in analytics and you can see tweet activity stats from the mobile app, it’s very easy to see your engagement rate. If your tweet has 50,000 impressions and two people interacted with it, something isn’t right. However, if your tweets are getting loads of impressions and interaction but you still have a small following, then it’s likely that the following will grow slowly and steadily off of the back of that (and that tends to be the best kind of growth – both valuable and manageable).

To improve this, take a look at what kind of social media posts are getting the most engagement and find a way to work more of them into your social media schedule and remove any unnecessary posts that don’t do so well.

2) Retweets

Getting lots of retweets usually indicates that people (not just your followers) like the material you’re posting so much that they want to quickly share it. While retweets on your promotional content probably indicate higher levels of brand engagement than retweets on your non-promotional content, both are great as they put your brand in front of a whole new audience.

3) Shares

It’s pretty easy to retweet something, but having followers that go out of their way to actively share your website/products etc. on their profile signifies a much higher level of engagement. If you add your Twitter handle to the text that is tweeted when someone presses the share button, you’ll be notified of each share (using the button). You can then retweet these posts to your followers to say “Hey, this person loved our blog so much they shared it. You should probably check it out too.”

4) Replies

People taking time out of their day to interact with your posts is great, but clicking a button or pressing share on a web page isn’t too hard. Followers that consistently respond to your posts with feedback, questions, insight and general discussion tend to be some of your biggest fans. Reply to them and have a short and sweet conversation – they’ll be sure to be back for more!

5) Likes

Many people tend to think likes on Twitter are meaningless and, for the most part, I’d say they are. However, if someone likes your tweet it can mean a few good things. They may be saving it for later (likely to be the case if there’s a link in the tweet) or they liked the tweet too much not to interact at all, but not enough to retweet (in which case, you may need to figure out why that is). Also, people’s likes are stored, meaning in the future they (or someone else) could stumble across your post all over again!

Most of these statistics for your Twitter account can be found in the analytics tool Twitter provides. It’s free, so make sure you make use of it!

Aysh Banaysh is a freelance Social Media Manager for bands, brands and businesses. She’s also the editor of Eat More Cake and shares digital marketing advice and social media tips on her website.

Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post.

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