The social media landscape is exciting, fascinating and incredibly fast moving. Never before has it been so easy for companies to touch base and keep their finger on the collective pulse of their existing and potential customers.
With research by the Chartered Institute of Marketing stating that 34% of businesses do not believe social media marketing has much of a positive effect on their businesses, it’s time to look at social media marketing and ask ourselves if it is really that essential that businesses are on every social network out there or whether they would be better off improving the quality of the connections they already have.
So we ask (and attempt to provide an answer to) this two part question:
- Is it better to have a presence on all of the popular social networks or to establish your brand on one or two of the most popular sites like Twitter or Facebook?
- Does the quality vs. quantity debate also apply to the amount of connections/friends/fans or followers you have on these social networking sites.
The argument for quality over quantity
For a start, the great thing about social media is that it gives companies a chance to develop genuine connections with their customers.
If you are managing your presence on ten different sites and have thousands of connections on each, how are you ever going to keep in touch with them all?
Companies would need to employ whole teams of people just to manage this.
Conversion of connections into sales
As Jamie Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Analytics says to Socialmediatoday.com, your bank manager isn’t going to give you a loan based on how many Twitter followers you have. As Jamie quite rightly says:
“Ironically but inevitably, the key measure of your social media success is offline: how many new customers did you gain? How much new profit did you drive as a result of your online presence?”
“If your business model depends on authentic relationships, on credibility, on influencing the offline world – that does not scale in a linear fashion. For most professionals, and even many corporations, quantity is over-rated.”
If you’re not converting your Twitter followers into cold hard business, then why waste time and money getting thousands of followers?
Social media noise
Lief Larson from Business2community.com talks about how being on every social networking site blogging, Facebooking and tweeting away can simply create the effect of noise.
Everyone’s doing it.
He asks: how are businesses differentiating themselves from their competition?
He has a point here. Customers want to feel talked to, not talked AT. Mass noise doesn’t allow for dialogue.
The beauty of using social media to connect with your customers is the fact that you can engage in dialogue with them that makes businesses seem more human and less faceless. This makes your posts seem less like noise and more like content that your customers want and need to come into contact with.
It’s an old cliché but people buy from people.
Can’t buy me love
A great example of this is the experience Southwestecommerce.com had when they decided to pay a company to get them “fans” on a social networking site.
Graeme Olsen told Socialmediatoday.com that the company had decided to buy fans for their social page that targeted people in the UK and Australia:
“We paid extra for the “targeted fans” option [but] it became clear early on that all fans were from the USA.”
Graeme also noted that fans were posting identical “weird/random” comments on both pages, leading them to suspect that “many of the fans (or at least the ones that comment) are either junk profiles, or perhaps paid to join our page and comment.”
A strike back for quantity over an overreliance on quality
Well-known LinkedIn personality Ron Bates seems to disagree. The search consultant was once lauded as the world’s number one LinkedIn user and says “there can be quality in quantity”.
According to Bates, having lots of connections across social media sites means that the odds of making a valuable connection are higher.
Bates also makes the point that customers buy from companies they trust and that companies with a high social presence across social networks are more likely to be trusted. If your nearest competitor is on Twitter and you are not and a potential customer searches for your company on Twitter, how likely do you think you are to get the business?
Social networking is such a core part of many people’s lives that companies without an established presence on these sites can be seen to have less credibility than a competitor who has popular and well maintained Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Pinterest, Google + and LinkedIn profiles.
Broadcasting messages to large groups of people on people on different sites might not generate revenue immediately via a sudden increase in sales but companies will increase their brand presence and could find themselves the first port of call for people when they need something the company offers due to having placed themselves in the immediate radar of their customers.
For example, a photographer that has profiles on Facebook and Twitter, posts video montages of their work on YouTube, creates beautiful pinboards of their favourite images on Pinterest.com and invites customers to check in via Foursquare could pop up in the mind of one of their connections when they need such a service or know someone who does.
An important point to make in the favour of quantity is that social networking sites all have different advantages. For example, Facebook allows users to post multimedia content of all kinds which is easy to share and comment on whereas YouTube allows engagement in a visual way.
Depending on the market niche of the business, they will find different uses for the different sites.
This in theory allows them to engage with their followers/fans/friends in subtly different ways.
There is much to be said for casting the net as wide as possible
The Adido viewpoint
We think that while both quality and quantity have their benefits – quantity because it gives the high breadth of web presence which we have seen can engineer feelings of trust in customers and quality because it allows businesses to connect properly with their audience, finding out their wants, needs and desires; we can’t help but feel that taking the best bits of both is the answer.
While breadth is great, depth is more important. It’s far better to be on three social networking sites and post regularly, engaging with fans, friends and followers as human beings than to tick the boxes and be on everything knowing that no one will never be able to devote a tremendous amount of time to any.
The key is to avoid the “one size fits all” perspective and tailor the social networking to both:
- The aims and needs of the business
- The aims and needs of their customers
- What networks target customers are on
- What competitors are doing
- How much time is available for social media marketing
With regards to whether it is better to have lots of friends or a select few – we think that Ron Bates has a point when he says that having presence online tells customers you are more trustworthy. It is also clear that if you have twenty friends on Facebook, you’re theoretically going to reach less people when you update your status than when you have two thousand.
He also has a valid point when he says that the more sites a business is on and the more friends they have, the greater the odds are of finding valuable connections and converting them into sales.
Better social media filtering
However, we’ll carry on with the Facebook example by saying that with news feeds being more and more geared towards what people do the most on Facebook, your chance of reaching two thousand people with one status is less than it would have been two years ago.
Also, why cast your net too wide and wait for your customers to come to you? Targeting a smaller but more relevant core market via your social networks makes it easier to go to them, to post content you know they will love because you will have researched their potential habits and tastes – you get the point.
Yes, a lot of fan and group pages send out notifications when posts are updated, but users can hide these for evermore with one click of their mouse. The days of spamming are over!
Nowadays, the only way to be sure you reach thousands of people on Facebook is to pay for their (admittedly effective) advertising.
The argument veers back towards quality. News feeds on Facebook, like Google searches, are based on presenting the data users most want to see when they log in. This is ascertained by an algorithm that looks at the people the user interacts with the most on Facebook and the pages they comment on.
It therefore makes perfect logical sense to make friends with the core market on a social network like Facebook and interact with them regularly, posting content they are likely to want to share and comment on. This will mean the business/profile page is more likely to appear in newsfeeds and make an impact.
Give us your views on social media!
What do you think? We love feedback and comments so feel free to leave yours under this post. What do you think is more important about social media? The quantity of friends and networking sites you’re on (breadth) or the quality of the connections you make and the relationships you maintain (depth)?
Or do you think the ideal situation is a mix of the best bits of both?
Adido is a cutting edge digital marketing and web design bournemouth agency that is highly skilled in all aspects of digital marketing and research. We work hard to always do digital better than last year, last month and yesterday which is why we’re thought leaders in our field.
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