Valuable Content, Not Numbers, is What Really Matters in Social Media for Business

This morning I received a promotional email from a company that began with this line, “With over 1,700 followers on Twitter, [Company] is fast becoming a top industry resource…”

That statement fires me up for a few reasons:

1) Why do 1700 followers on Twitter make you an industry resource?

2) Who are the 1700 followers and why do you equate them with credibility of your organization (or to me) if you haven’t put them into context?

3) This was from a PR resource company and screams “bad pitch” to me – something the PR industry continues to suffer from.

Where is the context? Proof points? Value explanation?

This is the biggest issue I see right now in social media efforts from businesses: too much fluff and not enough valuable content. This email landed on the heels of a video I watched on Friday that raised hairs on my neck. It was a home-produced video commercial for a “service” (read: a set of video instructions) to help you “build your Twitter followers with no effort at all! Fully automated!” (I so vehemently disagree with its purpose that I can’t even bring myself to link to it here.)

Look, we’re all aware that there’s a certain level of narcissism to social media. We share every little thing we do, say or feel with near-strangers via microblogging, video, Facebook and more. We compare follower numbers, TwitPic everything we can, and debate over whether or not to employ a Guy Kawasaki-like Twitter strategy or not. Follower numbers do matter to a lot of people.

And while a large following can work for good causes – take Ashton Kutcher and CNN raising $$ to fight Malaria in their battle to reach 1M users – it’s not quite the same when you’re promoting a product or service. In other words, using social media for business has got to employ a smarter strategy. It’s easy to be viewed as genuine when raising money for a good cause. Building a genuine reputation when promoting your business takes a bit more effort.

That effort includes understanding social media – not just touting your use of it because it’s a hot buzz word or trend. Don’t mislead your prospects or customers by equating your “followers” on Twitter (or elsewhere) with value – unless you’ve done your homework and can explain how those numbers add value. I have over 10,000 followers on Twitter today but I wouldn’t tout those numbers as the value in a new business pitch. Rather, I would tout that I know how to identify and communicate with the specific followers within that number that would matter to the prospect. Or, that I know how to help build, grow and maintain a focused and valuable network for my clients (as I’ve done for myself and for others). My fashion industry friends are not going to matter to my VoIP or healthcare clients. My parenting discussions won’t relate to non-parenting Twitter pals. My marathon community doesn’t matter to my PR colleagues (well, not the ones who aren’t runners anyway). You get the point.

I am fully aware that the exciting opportunity in social media is to expand your network in ways never before possible. I agree that there are unprecedented opportunities for promoting and connecting. But people who are turning social media – especially Twitter – into a massive infomercial are missing the point. Even if you get 25,000 followers to your Twitter stream, if you don’t offer meaningful value to them, they aren’t going to stay, or buy your product, or read your blog. Say you’re Tweeting about mountain climbing gear and 75% of your followers are musicians who live in New York City. That means an even smaller percentage of those 25,000 followers are likely to be relevant customers. And that brings me back to touting your follower numbers alone as value. The value is in the content and the relationship (and how these relate to your ultimate goals), not the numbers.

The more popular social media becomes – like Twitter, for example – the more choosy I am becoming about who I’m connecting with – and the more I am learning about how to maintain value for different audiences. I want value out of these relationships – both work and personal value – and I’m finding that many of my friends are discovering this as well. I want to help my clients participate in social media intelligently – in a way that will bring value to their organization as well as their customers.

The booming popularity of social media has changed the focus – for those who truly get it – from building a large network to building a valuable network. I’ve got various examples to share on how to do this – but that’s another blog post.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Valuable Content, Not Numbers, is What Really Matters in Social Media for Business

  1. “The *value* is in the *content* and the *relationship* (and how these relate to your ultimate goals), not the numbers.”

    Spot on. Even for those of us who do *get* what social media is about, we need to be reminded of the points cited in this piece and remain vigilant in helping others understand this value proposition.

    Thanks for sharing.

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