Why Vanity Metrics Are Killing Your Content
You’ve probably seen it every day. Someone follows you on Twitter only to unfollow you within a day if you don’t follow back. Actually, it’s also very common on Instagram. Follow, unfollow, follow, unfollow, rinse and repeat. Then there’s follow 4 follow. And then there are buying followers, which we’ve discussed before (totally lame). Why? It’s all in the name of vanity metrics.
Why do people or brands put their time and effort into being follower collectors?
I’ll tell you why. Because they are lazy. Because they do not understand that social media is actually about being social. The clue is in the name. Shall I say it again? Social media. Now, do you get it?
And whilst they are putting all this effort into collecting follower numbers what they aren’t doing is engaging or producing content to keep those followers amused. Collecting yourself ten thousand followers on Twitter is all well and good but if you don’t engage or entertain them when you do then throw out your call to action your audience won’t be engaged or trained in the art of responding to your call. Because you’ve given them no reason to in the past. And only tweeting once every three days (typically about yourself) is not engaging your audience. It’s irregular broadcasting. People will quickly forget who you are and why they followed you in the first place and then they will unfollow.
I’ve seen quite a few examples lately of content creators (bloggers/vloggers/influencers etc) clearly trying to amass followers to try and garner better brand deals. When you’ve played in this industry for long enough it’s very easy to spot the patterns. Using Twitter as a prime example it usually it goes along the lines of follow, unfollow, follow, unfollow, rinse and repeat. There are apps you can use to do this for you and it will search out users based on keywords and follow them. If they don’t follow back within say 24/48 hours then it unfollows them. It’s easy to spot these users as they tend to follow a lot of people and have roughly the same number of followers.
Linking vanity metrics to your average narcissist?
Then you have the truly narcissistic that follow loads of people and then unfollow them all regardless of whether they follow back or not. It’s all about them remember (me, myself and I) so they don’t actually care who they follow so long as they get the all-important follow back before they then routinely unfollow. Don’t be offended by the unfollow, it’s not personal. It never is personal with a narcissist, it’s all about them remember, not you.
I’ve mentioned a few ways to spot fakers before in this post here but you can also use the Crowdfire app to spot the follow/unfollow brigade. Just look at any users stats and it’s glaringly obvious. Here’s an example I prepared earlier for you. Naturally, I’ve chopped off the name to protect the guilty but you can see by the follow/unfollow numbers and graph how obvious it is that this user is just playing a numbers game. One look at their feed also shows very little engagement and every tweet is about themselves. They never strike up conversations or share anyone else’s posts or content. Ever!
This is mainly prevalent on Twitter and Instagram but with Instagram’s latest blocking of a number of API’s it will now be harder for users to garner the system. But that doesn’t mean to say they won’t. They will, it’s just a bit harder now. And with Instagram’s new algorithm users need to start thinking more about their content and engagement rather than just posting something and hoping for the likes. Yes, Instagram is all about fantastic images but you need to be delivering value with that image too. Does it inspire, motivate, inform, educate, ENGAGE the viewer in some way? Is it relevant to the audience you are trying to build?
Please don’t turn me on!
Do you remember the day Instagram announced the new algorithm changes and loads of people posted about turning on notifications and that stupid #turnmeon hashtag emerged? Those of us that actually work in this industry (not just play at it) laughed at this. Many a private joke was launched that day and the countless innuendo kept me quite amused. Well let’s just say, I had a few comments deleted that day. But what my jovial moments did was demonstrate that those asking to be turned on actually didn’t understand social media at all. They were just playing numbers games and in asking to be turned on they outed themselves to PR’s and brands as being not very social at all. One PR company told me they had managed to cut their influencer list in half that day. Whoops.
Actually, I made a point of unfollowing everyone that asked. It served as a reminder that those people aren’t actually worth the follow or eyeballs on my newsfeed.
And then along came Ghostcodes and I rolled my eyes to the heavens. The one beauty about Snapchat was that it wasn’t a numbers game. It was a content producer. A communication tool. And then some tool decided we needed to add heart counts to it. All jokes aside, whoever thought that inventing heart counts as a measuring device on any social media platform wants putting out of business. If one more person tells me to heart something up I will literally rip their heart out! Actually, they probably don’t have a heart as they are just soulless machines that operate on freakin numbers that don’t mean a damn thing in the real world but somehow have become a measure of importance in the online world.
So what’s all this got to do with your content?
If you are creating content or posting rubbish just for the sake of it to get some more likes, hearts, fake ass appreciation, then you clearly do not understand social media. If you are a brand then you should understand that likes, hearts, whatever, do not equal sales. Being in business requires sales (revolutionary concept hey!) and without sales then you aren’t in business, you’re just playing at it. If you are just focusing on getting the likes or some other vanity metric then you are probably letting the sales slip through your fingers.
As a brand, your social media should firstly be about awareness and providing some form of value to your viewers and then most important of all is driving that traffic to your website. Why? Because you own your website and all the data held within it. You don’t own any of your social media platforms and they can vanish in a flash. By getting traffic on to your website you can capture users email addresses, cookie them for future targeted adverts and introduce them further to your brand and your who, what and why.
Did you just judge a brand by its follower count?
Don’t always judge a brand by its metrics. I’ve seen multi million pound businesses with very few Facebook likes. Yes, social media is important to your brand presence and jeez I work in it so I know what’s possible, but ultimately you have to focus your efforts on what converts to sales and where your target audience is. You’re a business after all. And please stop spouting this building your community crap. That is just your code for building your own fan club. A community is about all its members and you are not serving all those members when you constantly bang on about yourself. Me, me, me, yawn. The last time I checked I couldn’t pay my mortgage with community numbers, likes, hearts, fake appreciation. That part takes sales.
But as a business you should be building and serving a community, so yes, build away. But don’t forget the sales or lose sight of the fundamental reason you went into business in the first place. I bet it wasn’t to work for free and rack up a ton of debt just to eat each day.
Time to get your blogging groove on
Now if you’re a blogger/vlogger/content creator you are probably looking to attract brands to work with. Guess what; they don’t really care about the likes, hearts etc, they just want the sales. If they are going to invest in you to create content for them then ultimately they want some return on that investment. Some brands expect instant results, and they would be the ones that are never going to be happy. The more social savvy brands know that social media is more of a long game. But nonetheless, they still want results. If they can’t see some form of true measurable reaction to a piece of content you produce for them, chances are they won’t hire you for very long or again.
PR’s and brands have in the past hired based on the numbers and then many learnt from their mistakes. I’ve seen this countless times; a photo on Instagram with 500 likes and not one single comment. The photo may be a work of art from a photography perspective but this shows no engagement. The posters followers don’t care about what the poster is all about, they aren’t actually influencing or engaging their followers. The poster will tell the brand they’ve done great and got 500 likes. What the brand see’s is no interest in their product. Yes, the photo looked great but it could have been any old product in that photo. Also, it could actually be a sign that the poster just bought all the likes. It happens all too often unfortunately and PR’s and brands are getting more aware of it.
So you want to get paid?
I hate to burst any content creators bubbles but gone are the days of earning big bucks for doing very little work. Actually that never really happened anyway. It was a false perception given out when a relatively small number of bloggers did earn some good fees for what looked like very little work.
When brands hire influencers (content creators) now, they want to make sure that person actually has some influence. Can that person act as a true brand ambassador and engage with their following about that brand? Will they embrace the ethos and values of that brand or will they be a turncoat once they get paid? Are they likely to put the brand in a compromised position because they place the focus on themselves and not the brand or the message the brand wants them to deliver? None of these factors revolve around the number of likes or hearts.
To make myself sound stupid, yes your numbers have some weight and yes they are important, but if that’s all you’re concerned with then you aren’t going to get very far. Build an audience that’s relevant to what you do and who you are and engage with them. Create content that is specifically for the audience you want to attract. I see so many social media folks building an audience of other social media folks. Marketers marketing to marketers. Bloggers only ever engaging with other bloggers (vloggers, influencers, content creators etc etc). What is the point? They are the least likely to buy from you or be influenced by you! This just shows that you don’t understand your target market, which brings me back to building a relevant audience.
Ask yourself these questions;
What is the point of 10,000 followers that are not interested in me or my product?
What is the point of 500 likes on a post when nobody is talking about it or talking to me about it?
What is the point of people tweeting me but I never respond because I only engage with others I deem important enough of my time or don’t bother to respond to anyone?
I’m a business so what return am I getting? Is it measurable or is it just a whole load of virtual pats on the back?
Is that pouting selfie really how I want my business to be known or am I just in need of an ego boost from the likes? It’s Instagram remember, not Tinder. Sharing a little bit of personality on your business social media is perfectly ok, but just be careful that you don’t over share. Drunk pouting selfies are not a good illustration of your business skills.
I can’t buy my Ruby Woo with hearts alone
It’s time to ditch the number bragging and start getting serious about your content. Your business won’t survive off likes alone and as an influencer, if you want brands to ultimately pay you then you need to be providing as much bang for their bucks.
Whilst I’m on the subject of influencers, I’ve spent 9 years now in this industry and pretty much seen every mistake possible when it comes to people trying to position themselves as influencers. From not understanding the business of being an influencer to pretty much burning bridges with brands and PR’s because you have a bit of an audience and suddenly think you’re Zoella!
I’ve learned everything from actually dealing with clients and not just talking about this industry. I deal daily with the actually famous, the wannabe famous and the could be famous (online) if they understood the industry better. So with that in mind, I’m now splitting my business in two.
We’ll still have Socially Sam which is for those wanting to hire just me directly to either consult or speak at an event and then we have Socially Famous PR which is for online community management service for the already famous (we call them blue ticks). And then those trying to be socially famous and carve a career as an online influencer creating content for brands who need some help understanding the steps they need to be taking. From getting to know the business side better and just general mentoring to give you the best start possible in what should be an exciting and rewarding career path.
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