Quality over quantity. It’s a tenet that I’m sure many of us were taught as far back as primary school, but I can particularly remember being taught at high school that, when it came to essay questions, the word count was a limit, not a target. Quality answers delivered the marks, not endless waffle.
And so, when I first started working, I was utterly baffled. It seemed that when it came to business, the quest for quality was forgotten about in an endless drive for quantity. From talking to friends in other industries, it seems that this isn’t only a fault of the marketing and communications world, but multiple other sectors and even academia.
This is why I was so excited when I first used social media as part of a communications campaign. As I explained to the client at the time, this was a tool (a Facebook group, as I recall) that would enable us to speak directly to the consumer and have them speak directly back to us. Even more importantly, we’d only be speaking to the kinds of people who were actually interested in hearing what we had to say. As a result, we’d be talking to a smaller group of people, but we’d be having quality conversations.
Yet here we are, seven years later, and I am being pursued by social media robots with promises such as “I will pin your website to 400+ pinterest accounts with SEO pinterest promotion and your pin will be tweeted to 200,000 twitter friends for $10” and “60,000+Fast and SAFE Twitter Followers. for $30”. What is worse (aside from the appallingly poor grammar), is that I know that there are marketers out there who will pay this, just so that they can claim a high return on investment. I could almost put my head on my desk and cry.
Personally, I am content to have my Twitter follower numbers grow slowly. I’m not going to follow click-bait generators in return for them following me. And I’m certainly not interested in buying “10,000+ High Quality Twitter Followers, Favorites, or ReTweets INSTANTLY for $5”. Call me old fashioned, but I’d like to keep the ‘social’ in ‘social media’.
Four years ago, Econsultancy, an international digital marketing research and training group, highlighted that a high number of social media followers does not necessarily correlate with high levels of engagement. Online publication The Next Web also weighed in on the subject in 2012, saying: “Whether unethical, illogical, ineffective or dangerous, voices from all areas of social media are quick to label purchasing followers as a poor practice.” More recently, Econsultancy noted that “unless you are a broadcaster or FMCG, targeting matters more than reach”.
Fortunately, as social media is increasingly integrated into communications and customer service, brands are recognising that social media is not a broadcast mechanism, but a tool that enables engagement. As this awareness grows, brands are coming to strive for high levels of engagement, not high numbers of passive (or worse, fake) followers.
As recently as 2013, Facebook estimated that between 5.5 per cent and 11.2 per cent of its 1.23 billion active users were fake, while Twitter said that it believes less than 5 per cent of its 230 million active users to be fake, so the transition from quantity to quality is sadly not going to be a quick one. However, as the focus of social media measurement moves from quantity (follower numbers) to quality (engagement), more and more curators of fake profiles will have to find a new grey-area to operate in.