Who’s Counting? Quantity vs. Quality in Social Media

In this age of social media, when there’s such an emphasis on getting more fans, followers, and subscribers, it’s easy to feel a bit anxious about ramping up your connections on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

But should you focusing on getting a large quantity of people connected with you online? Are 1,000 followers or fans better than 100?

It comes down to the old debate — quality versus quantity.

The advocates for quality say it is less about the numbers and more about the amount of influence you have over those followers. The fans of quantity argue that more fans, followers and connections provide you with more people to hear your message.

For any business that focuses on a specific niche market – from a retail store selling collectible doll houses, to a consulting firm focused on advanced manufacturer, to a property management company targeting individual investors – it would be more important to identify and connect with a core group of people interested in your focus area.

Still, the numbers of followers are still important for a number of reasons.

The first is public perception – if you go to someone’s Twitter account and see that she’s following nine people and has 900 followers, you may think you should follow her too. But if she was following 900 people and had only nine followers, that changes your perception somewhat!

Secondly, with larger groups of followers and fans, you have more people to hear your message. And while not everyone may be interested, they may know people who might be interested.

Having a large group of fans or followers could be challenging. If you’re finding it difficult to respond to messages directed at you because you have a large number of followers, you may need to figure out a better way to scale your interactions.

But there are ways to manage this. Plan your posting schedule and post regularly, at least three times a day to remain active. You can automate some of these posts using a scheduling tool. Then make sure you check frequently and reply to queries, posts or questions from your connections. Use social monitoring tools, such as NutshellMail or Hootsuite. Keep your increasing number of followers interested by posting on a regular basis and interacting with the people who tweet “at” you.

For myself, out of the small or large group of connections, to be effective at social media marketing, I would be looking for perhaps 50 or 100 loyal advocates, people who speak positively on my behalf and promote me to their own followers. This would be better than 1,000 casual followers who do not pay any real attention to my messages.

So on the issue of quality vs. quantity, perhaps the final answer is that it is best to go after both. Develop a social media plan that has strategies designed to reach large “masses” of people, while looking for ways to engage a few followers and fans in a strategic way.

Only you can determine who your quality connections are. Maybe you’re trying to expand your network or find more connections within your field. You may – possibly – be looking to connect with your past buyers online to leverage the credibility of your customer relationships. The bottom line is that you have to determine your focus and how you can offer value to those contacts.

At the end of the day, it’s this value that will help you attract more quality followers.As always, it comes down to content. If you’re providing information that contains a benefit to your followers, or is entertaining, and isn’t just self-promotional, then it’ll be very easy for those followers to advocate for you through re-tweets, comments, “Likes” and other mentions.

However, if you want this to work well for you, do what you can to return the favour – interact with as many of your followers as possible, re-tweet their tweets (as appropriate), thank them for their Facebook comments, acknowledge it when they mention you, and find ways to communicate in an authentic way.

And that brings us full circle on the issue of quality vs. quantity. Effective social media marketing is about engagement. The more you engage with people on social media, the less you speak “at” them. This leads to more quality connections.

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