Does Size Really Matter?
‘It’s not about how many followers you have, it’s about how engaged they are.’
I hear this a lot from other agencies, and I get where they’re coming from. Anyone who works in social media has to lower their customer’s expectations now and again. I have been asked many times to make someone ‘go viral’. And sometimes people try and give me really high targets for new followers. ‘Get me 10,000 followers by next week and we’ll talk!’
I think social media pros like to say that audience size doesn’t matter because it’s so tricky to actually predict how an audience will grow. And we can’t work towards targets of followers. But I’m quite comfortable saying “I will get you as big an audience as I can.”
I get that the actual number of followers is cheap because you can buy 10,000 followers for as little as £20. But buying followers is not unheard of in this industry. A lot of ‘household names’ that I analyse have bought followers. When your followers need to be in the hundreds of thousands for you to be taken seriously, topping up your followers is a quick fix. The problem with buying fake followers though is that it’s difficult to get rid of them again without manually checking and blocking each one. So if you come to regret it one day, you’re pretty much screwed. It’s dead easy to tell if someone’s bought fake followers as well. A huge giveaway is when people are tweeting to an audience of 10,000 but get ZERO replies or favourites. It doesn’t look great to buy into fame, it looks attention-hungry.
You’re more likely to get followers by following and engaging with others. But really watch out for people who are following waaaay more people than follow them back. Some social media ‘influencers’ have audiences of 50k, but follow 200k people. Judging by how many accounts get naturally followed by spambots, sex workers, scammers and just generally low-quality accounts, I think it’s a good aim to be following fewer people than follow you. Even if you decide to be kind and follow back the people who are genuinely interested in you. Sticking to that will stop you from getting too aggressive with your following. Even though it could be argued that you could get 1 million followers in a week if you follow 3 million people, is that what you really want?
Audience should be growing month on month but may hit a peak.
So while you don’t want your audience to be big and full of rubbish, bigger is always better. A lot of accounts I take on have about 100 followers to begin with. I grow their audience month on month and because of this, the social media traffic directed to their website grows month on month. Simply because more people are seeing the status updates. Your audience size might hit a peak eventually and start to slow, particularly if you’re a local or niche business. But that peak should be much higher than 100 followers. Your social media audience growth should not be stagnant. Don’t accept excuses if an agency or freelancer isn’t giving you what you want.
The more people you connect with, the more opportunities you have.
On my own social media channels I’ve had customers, PR opportunities, built relationships with other agencies, made friends who will recommend me by word of mouth, found staff. Been asked to speak at events, ran workshops and got involved with education, business events and exhibitions. I’ve even been given some discounts on tickets, software and apps. And sometimes I get them for free! The bigger my audience is the more amazing people I have to talk to. The more relationships I have. The more opportunities I have. Yes, engagement is vital but it’s better to have an audience of 1,000 engaged people than 100.
Size is important. But your audience has to be built in the right way.
To conclude, I definitely think that size is very important when it comes to social media. But the size has to be done in the right way – by engaging with others and spending quality time with your profiles. Put out helpful content (not just talking about yourself content and selfies). There are no shortcuts to building relationships, even online. The more interest and care you show towards someone else, the more they will show to you.
What do you think? Do you totally disagree that audience size is important?