Tempting though it may be, especially when it comes to chocolate, more is not always better. Driven in part by a desire by some to emulate the sort of “opportunities to see” and “reach” calculations common in more traditional PR and marketing work, it is common to see people judge social media activities by the “more equals better” formula.
The number of followers a corporate Twitter account has, for example, is an easy number to track, makes for nice looking graphs and has a certain logic. However, looking uncritically at such numbers is also a trap for the unwary.
Followers may – indeed almost certainly will – include defunct accounts and spam accounts, which boost the numbers artificially. They may also include followers who have no relevance to the audiences which would be useful.
My own Twitter account is followed by a Chicago firm which supplies chemicals to plumbers in that area. I’ve yet to work out what set of circumstances will make that a useful connection for either of us…
The risk with focusing on crude totals is both that it can distort behaviour (including, in the worst cases, encouraging people to do silly things in search of numbers) but also obscures whether or not the right people are being reached.
An example from the US gives a stark reminder of how success does not have to come from volume:
We created a Twitter account recently for a trade association client with an issue on Capitol Hill, and at its highest the account had between 30 and 50 followers. But those followers were reporters covering the issue, members of Congress on the right committees, and the client was thrilled. (William Beutler of New Media Strategies, Politics Magazine, Nov/Dec 2009)