A few weeks ago I was at the computer and saw a post from a former client. Hadn’t seen anything from them in some time and as they say, out of sight, out of mind. Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to take a quick look at the companies follower engagement numbers. Using a site that quickly checks such things, I was surprised at the numbers. Now mind you I understand that a site that calculates and reports fake, inactive, and active data in a matter of seconds is not 100% accurate, but it is however a good benchmark for a beginning and fairly accurate source.
I was honestly surprised at the results. They were not impressive, and more importantly they told a story that many social media professionals would recognize right away. It was clear right off the bat that whoever was managing the account was engaging in black hat practices. Black hat meaning undesired, gamed results. The results were as follows:
7% of the companies followers were deemed fake, 33% inactive, and only 60% showed to be active, good followers. These are not numbers to be proud of. When I left the company the total numbers of followers was smaller than now, however the ratio’s were very different. 0%, 1%, and 99% respectively. My contracted goal with the company was to get them started with a solid foundation and hand the activity over to the company to be handled in house. Clearly, someone with little or poor knowledge has been managing the account since, in my humble opinion.
The first thing that went through my head when I saw those numbers was “black hat” practices. Let’s take a look at what those numbers mean. The total number of followers was up significantly, however the number of fake, and more importantly “inactive” followers was way up. What does this tell us?
First, whoever is managing the account is more interested in total number of followers, rather than creating an engaging, interactive community around the brand. By looking at the high ratio of inactive followers, it is a good bet that the account manager is using what is called “seed accounts.” Seed accounts differ from fake (bot) accounts in that they are connected with real people. They are just people who never engage. Social media managers who were stung by buying fake accounts in the past, have started buying these seed accounts to try and game the system to artificially pad total follower numbers. So yeah they don’t show up as fake accounts, but inactive.
What the unsuspecting business owner see’s is a large increase in followers, so the manager must be doing a great job. Wrong. Dig into the numbers a little deeper and you see that in this case 33% of your followers are not engaging with your brand at all. This entire follower group is essentially useless, and doesn’t effect the brand digital presence at all. Business owners beware of social media managers who pride themselves on follower, page like numbers, etc. Dig a little deeper and get the true meaning of the numbers.
So What’s the Big Deal?
Here’s the big deal: A good social media manager will use follower data to track and identify characteristics of the people who are talking about and engaging with the companies brand, for a number of different reasons. This information is crucial to putting together a solid social media/ marketing strategy. If you base your data mining on data from a follower group that is 33% phony, do you think that is going to skew your results, and make putting together a proper strategy useless? It sure is. It is crucial that company owners take the time to learn at least some basics about social media strategy, whether the manager is in house, or outsourced. Don’t be blindsided by the big number bling, keep in mind it is much better to have 100 followers, 99% of which are real and actively engaging than to have 1,000 of which 40% are not.
There is so much more to managing a social media account then posting pictures on FB, Twitter, G+ etc. The real magic happens on the inside. Having a plan, knowing what and why the goals are, and executing.