When your vanity metrics rule the game
“I want thousands of followers. At least 10,000 of them,” an acquaintance told me enthusiastically. “I’ll feel like I’ll have a perfect life once I hit that number.”
The number of followers is one of the first things you see when you visit someone’s social media profile. The relevance attached to this metric is of such major importance that apps which allow the buyer to purchase followers are available.
Why are we so attracted to the concept of more equals better? There have been theories floating around the dopamine-oxytocin rush which sends the brain into ecstasies when a notification of a new follower pops up on the screen. Let’s face it: a vanity metric looks good and makes us look good and feel good. The higher the number, the more tempting it becomes to attach our self-worth to a number and construct what we think is a perfect life online. It seems so easy to measure our likeability in numbers. Isn’t it?
As you can see, an exclusive focus on the number of followers has several disadvantages.
Avoid the numbers game
On the one hand, the apps mentioned above are against the terms of social media platforms and can result in the owner’s account being blocked or deleted. You want a genuinely interested audience, and you’ll want to grow it slowly. Only very few things can grow overnight, after all. On the other hand, purchased followers consist of spam accounts which will beautify your number (at least for a short while) and not do anything for your engagement rate or conversion. In other words, social media is not a numbers game. It is about how people interact with each other and each other’s content.
This is the conclusion the University of St. Gallen came to after conducting a study on influencer marketing in Switzerland. To show which metrics are important, they developed a special influencer analysis tool in cooperation with communication agency Jung von Matt/Limmat and Reachbird, an influence marketing platform. What they found out: content is king and engagement such as shares, likes and comments, is the emperor.
Avoid the follow and unfollow game
Sooner or later (usually sooner), everyone experiences it on social media: the follow and unfollow game. Typical scenario: an account with thousands of followers ends up following you. A closer look reveals that they are following only few accounts. You feel flattered to have been picked among the few. You follow back. And usually within the next 24 hours, they have unfollowed you. Unfortunately, this is a widespread and popular practice. It is all about following others in the hopes of being followed back, driving up the vanity metrics – and dumping the unsuspecting follower like a rotten apple. This is what I call the antisocial media practice.
Improving your social media game
Now, I am not suggesting that you should completely ignore your vanity metrics. Going through your list of followers regularly is excellent for weeding out spam accounts. You also want to check if you are connecting with your target audience and your followers are engaging actively with your content. Lurkers who don’t show any signs of interacting with your content are called ghost followers. You really don’t want them around. Imagine your social media audience as a plant. Over time, with proper care and attention (=your engagement), it will grow and thrive. Briefly: take your vanity metrics with a grain of salt, and if you have a good engagement rate instead of a thousand ghost followers, you will have more to smile than to worry about.