It’s not ALL about the numbers

We recently spent time working with a client about social media and how it fits into their overall communications strategy. This organization had “dabbled” in social media (their words) but had never fully committed to it and they wanted to know a) if they should commit and b) if they should, then how.

The CEO is a smart person. He is connected within his industry, he is well-liked and well respected, and there are interesting things going on at this organization. The CEO has his own Twitter account, which has been silent for several months now. There are a few hundred followers – not a huge amount by any standards, but the followers are relevant to this organization. They are representatives from government, journalists, others in the same field, and board members; there aren’t many clients or customers. The organization itself (the brand) has a Twitter account as well. It has more followers than the CEO, but has been pretty silent over the past few months. It is this account that focuses on their target market.

The challenge here was to get our client to embrace the fact that the number of followers is less important than the “value” of each follower. This is something we face quite often, especially with clients who aren’t fully immersed in social media (and even with some who are immersed, but who are driven by numbers rather than context). And, in the communications field, we have often have to deal with the challenge of defending a targeted pitch to one journalist, as opposed to an email news release blast that goes to 5,000 (mostly irrelevant) journalists. There is a misconception that more means more valuable, and in the context of relationships and communication, that isn’t necessarily accurate. Realizing that more isn’t necessarily better in this context is vital to successful communication. In this space, a small number of the right people is more valuable than a big number of random people.

The CEO’s Twitter account should grow organically. As we ramp up to create an editorial and engagement schedule, defining what would be of interest to his professional relationships, our approach is to help him create relevant content that is of interest, that will help build engaged followers. This includes identifying the people on Twitter that he should follow – people who will provide valuable information and news that is of interest to him and his role as CEO. This doesn’t mean that the target market (potential customers) wouldn’t follow him on Twitter or find him interesting and relevant; but, for the most part, they aren’t the target audience for this specific stream of conversation. The direct consumer connection comes through the brand Twitter account. The brand Twitter account should retweet interesting tweets from the CEO, and the CEO should guest tweet here, as well as retweet from the brand – but only when it is relevant to their specific Twitter followers.

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is a great example of how a small Twitter community can, and will, share a message when they feel that it is relevant. And how quickly it can spread if it resonates with people. It is incredibly powerful.

What do you think – is there criteria for a “good” follower? Do big numbers equal big connections?

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