By Shelby, Senior Content Strategist
From YouTube to Instagram, Social Media Marketing continues to rise. Over 86 percent of women admit to consulting social media before purchasing an item, and 71 percent of consumers are more likely to buy something favorably represented via social media.
However, the growing pressure to “be somebody” on the internet comes with a wave of wannabes and this temptation to prioritize one metric above all others: Followers.
Instagram manages to cultivate false followings with ease. And, in the event Instagram decides to keep up with Twitter and purge bots, companies built upon generating fake celebrity have already found new ways to circumvent the changes.
Recent reports from The Atlantic point out that aspiring Instagram influencers are even faking brand deals in hopes of acquiring MORE brand deals. While it’s easy to scoff at influencer culture and their detox teas, there are companies out there who are lured in by this notion that having a high following instantly means your social media has worthwhile engagement.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Think of social media like Whose Line Is It Anyway: “Welcome to Social Media Marketing, where everything is made up and the Follower Counts don’t matter.”
But if follower counts don’t matter, then what the heck does!?
Engagement, friends. Engagement is everything. Let’s unpack why followers aren’t everything and give you some key metrics to keep in mind as you measure your social media campaigns.
Playing a sole numbers game damages your brand.
The first glaring issue in playing “Keeping Up with the Count-ashians” is that you’re more willing to compromise sharing meaningful content with garbage memes that are irrelevant to your audience. Yes, the latest meme format has its place — like Twitter, where ephemeral content thrives. But chasing clout over content means that you’re far more likely to fall prey to trends rather than discuss industry issues that matter to your company.
Quality content should be:
- Personal to your company.
- Meaningful to your audience.
- Support your brand as a whole.
If your answer to “why am I posting this?” is “idk” or “because it’s trendy,” it’s not quality content, and you’re undermining the brand value in the eyes of your current audience.
Inflating numbers provides a false sense of security.
Let’s say you do the highly unrecommended thing you’ve seen other agencies recommend and start shelling out $20/month to a bot farm so you can have more followers.
These followers are not real people. No matter what any bot farm will try to sell you, there are no living, breathing people sitting with their phones in hand, ready to like and comment and share all of your latest posts.
Marketing efforts — even organic social media marketing — should be measured in terms of Return on Investment rather than a single metric like follower count. Why? Because social media is most impactful when people can use it to feel connected to brands. DMs, retweets, shares, IG saves — these all show more information about your audience than someone numbly hitting a “follow” button and never engaging further with your company.
And those are just the real humans…
You should never, ever, ever, ever, NEVER pay for followers.
The quickest way to scam people into thinking that your social media presence means something is by paying for followers.
“But Shelby, I’m trying to launch a new brand and already look authoritative! High numbers trick people into thinking I already know what I’m talking about, right?”
Sure… if Instagram doesn’t follow through with its plans to remove all like counts from its platform within the next year. Which will quickly make all numbers on your social media posts irrelevant.
But I’m going to make a few assumptions about your customers:
- They’re smart because they value your business, whatever that might be.
- They’re familiar enough with the internet, because you’re leveraging social media to engage with them.
- They weren’t born yesterday.
With those three assumptions, I can make a guess that your audience — your real human audience — is smart. And because they’re smart, they’ll be able to sniff out your fake followers (and your fake brand efforts) in no time at all.
Because it’s incredibly simple for people to sniff out if you use fake followers and bot farms.
I’m going to let you in on a marketing secret: anyone can see if someone pays for fake followers. The analysis takes all of 15 seconds. Here are the red flags that most internet-savvy, smart consumers can spot to realize a company pays for a following:
- Ratios, ratios, ratios.
Yes, a healthy social media presence will typically showcase more Followers than Following. But unless you went viral or are a celebrity, your Follower to Following ratio shouldn’t look like this:
Accounts that do look like this have more than likely paid for an inflated follower count. Most people use social media to naturally connect and follow those who follow them. Even if an account shows leadership by having a higher follower count than following, the ratios are rarely this drastic (unless it’s a major corporation behind the account).
- Followers that aren’t anywhere near where the company is from.
Proximity matters when cultivating a meaningful social media presence. If you’re a thriving local business, it makes sense that a majority of your followers would be in the same region as your company. But a majority of these bot farms aren’t found in the US. Click on a post of an account you suspect of paying for followers. If you see something like this, it’s a sign of bot farming.
- No meaningful comments.
253 likes on a post but not a single comment? That’s a little suspicious…
As previously mentioned, bot farms aren’t real people. Therefore, they won’t engage with an account in meaningful ways. They’re just there to like the post, maybe leave an emoji, and move on to the next account. The accounts that liked our sample post all looked like this:
They’re shell accounts with no stake in the company they follow or the products you sell. They won’t ask questions about your products. They won’t leave feedback on posts that affect them. They won’t tell you what they think or DM you with a customer service query.
Social media metrics that do matter
Here are a few quick stats to keep in mind whenever you need to analyze your organic social media performance:
- Engagement %
- Comment volume (from real humans)
- The time you spend engaging with followers to generate natural conversation
- Impressions vs clicks vs engagement (a very unique and important ratio)
At On Target, we’re in the business of meaningful social media marketing — not blowing smoke with a big numbers game. Not everyone will be the perfect audience to buy your product. Our goal with every client is to use marketing to drill down to the audience who wants to engage with your company, foster those relationships, and keep them coming back for more. Fake numbers have no place in the real world. That’s why we encourage a steady stream of content and quality organic social media strategies to give your brand longevity and honesty with customers that will outlast the latest algorithm. If you don’t know where to get started with your social media strategy, give us a call or send us an email. (And if you realize you’ve made a mistake in dealing with social media bots, we can help with that, too — judgement free.)