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Metrics without context is a potential pitfall for any business. You sold 1500 widgets more than last week (yet made a loss through heavy discounts). You gained 1500 new customers in a month (but lost 500 repeat customers through poor customer service). As you can see – context is crucial in understanding performance.
Yet when it comes to social media we obsess over the numbers without context: “We have 15000 Twitter followers” (but none of them buy anything) and “200% more Facebook fans” (but none of them engage with us).
It’s become ridiculous.
Social metrics shouldn’t be a badge of honour, yet more and more companies have taken the path of least resistance, buying their way to Facebook fan quota nirvana. Services to fill your brand up on fans are but a Google search away. There are however, loads of reasons why you should grow your fan base organically, rather than artificially.
1) Cheating is obvious.
You went from 300 fans one day to 15,000 the next. Suspicious much? If its social proof that you are after, the only proof is that your a cheat simply playing the numbers without a true understanding of relationship marketing.
That’s damaging to your brand in itself.
Adding randomers from random countries who barely speak the language you are communicating in, is probably not the way forward. For one its going to look weird to your true fans if they do ever comment on your post. In Russian, or Swahili, or Klingon.
2) You’ve just lost the ability to truly measure
Keeping track of how your social media marketing efforts are doing is hard enough, without dirty data in your analytics. Are you gaining followers quicker now? Are the new fans engaging with your message? Where are they coming from? You are going to have no idea exactly where you are, or where you need to go. How many of your fans and followers are true / real now? Buying fans is laying a solid egg of *whoops* for your future marketing reporting.
3) You’ve diluted the intimate connection with your fans
You are doing it wrong if you think that numbers matter. As with real life, its better to have 10 close friends who talk to you all the time, than 100 that you barely can hold a conversation with. Measure engagement (the number of likes and shares each of your posts receive) if you really want to get a feel for whether your message is getting heard.
4) These people aren’t your friends
You had a chance to get one on one with your most precious asset, and what did you do? You added a bunch of noise that will likely never buy anything off you, or give a monkey’s nipple about your brand message. These people aren’t your friends, they are just meaningless numbers that offer little benefit towards your overall goals. Combined with the problems that Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm brings – it’s a recipe for disaster.
5) You no longer know exactly what is working.
One of the best ways to shape your message is trial and error, and social platforms such as Facebook offer an instant feedback mechanism to A/B test your tone and voice, your audience interests, and how to communicate in other ways. If you’ve a bunch of fakes, the lines are quickly blurred between what is truly turning your true audience on, and what the bought fans are reacting to.
Social media marketing is a marathon – not a sprint. Treating it as a platform to learn, grow and cultivate your audience and message is much more likely to provide long term, meaningful reward and results.