Posted October 27, 2011 3:57 pm by with 5 comments

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Every Friday, I prepare a social media report for a client and the very top number is how many Facebook followers we gained that week. Sure, it’s a random number with no proven correlation to the success or failure of a campaign, but it’s all we’ve got.

Facebook has taken a stab at creating more meaningful metrics with their new “reach” and “talking about” stats but it comes down to this: the number of followers is the one metric we all understand.

That’s why Chief Marketer found that 60% the marketing professionals they surveyed use follower (friend, fan, etc) count as their chief method of measuring social media success. And it’s the favorite by a mile. Sharing, leads and time spent came in under 39% and incremental sales was only mentioned by 25%.

In order to increase the number of friends per week, the majority of respondents (69%) said they use share buttons on email and websites. 59% said they offer unique content to social media followers and that surprises me in a good way. Providing special perks for Twitter or Facebook followers is the best way to make sure people not only sign on but come back regularly to check what’s new.

You see, that’s the problem with using the number of followers as your main measure. A Facebook fan page can have 10,000 followers but how many of them hit it once and never came back? How many of them are actually reading what you’re posting?  Facebook offers you those numbers in the stats, but with Twitter, you’ll never know.

When asked how effective they are at measuring social media campaigns, 47% said “somewhat,” and that’s probably true. Using the tools currently available, we can get a good picture, not a great picture, of our social media hits and misses. Only 12% said “not at all effective” and an almost equal number went so far as to say they were “very effective.”

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In the grand scheme of things, I’d say we’re all doing the best we can with an area that’s moving and changing faster than any form of marketing we’ve experienced in the past.

Want to chime in on the whole “counting friends” as measure of social media success idea? We’re always happy to hear your take.

  • Haaa … yes your are right CYNTHIA . “He Who Has the Most (Social Media) Friends, Wins”.
    A new proverbs……

  • Im suprised only 47% said ‘somewhat’. i thought it would have been alot higher, especially in todays world were social media is growing at such a pace. i am also suprised that there is not more interest in measuring their overal klout scores for these campaigns. Personally i feel that getting large amount of friends or followers is more important for an initial step in a SM campaign, and then other steps can be taken.

  • I also look at how many times my content has been shared by people (especially on Twitter) and how many of those people are current social connections and how many are not. For instance, a guest post I write might get retweeted 15 times, but only 3 of them are currently following me on Twitter. I look at those other 12 people as potential connections and lay the groundwork for building a social relationship with them.

    • Cynthia Boris

      Good point. I followed this logic for a client I handled recently, following up on the RT’s, adding them as followers as well. It’s a lot of work if you have a really active account. As in real life, nurturing relationships takes time and effort!

  • Nick makes a great point. It is not just about having friend or fans, its about interaction with them and making sure that they are spreading the word.