Why Followers On Social Media Don't Matter

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The reason number of followers is irrelevant, beyond a certain point, somewhere between 200 and 2000, for the vast majority of businesses and individuals, is that the core paradigm of social media is personal engagement. Have you ever seen a serious twitter user in action? They move quickly through their timeline, dismissing advertisements faster than you'd think was possible if you weren't actually seeing it, hunting intently for opportunities for real interaction. As human beings we're hyper accomplished at sorting opportunities for real interaction out from among other noise. We do it unconsciously.

I suppose clients fixate on a desire for high numbers of followers because it feels like a form of stored and quantified potential impact. But at least for Facebook company pages that potential impact is mostly totally illusory. You can post to your company page, but because of the way the Facebook news feed algorithm works, only a small fraction of users who've liked/followed your company will see the post -- unless you spend money to boost it. It's something like just 16% of followers who will see it if you don't spend any money.

So I tell our clients they can accomplish everything they need to with 200-2000 followers if they just connect with 40-100 of them like human beings and have real human interactions. It's people you actually connect with, who feel like they know you and understand what you're up to, who'll be truly excited about your projects and want them to succeed. And then when you need to get the word out about something via retweets or reshares, you ask and it happens. No money needed to boost it. Just real social sharing that stands out from the noise.

For some reason when people decide to spin up a company they think they need to communicate through impersonal corporate accounts with just logos as their avatars, and that their business success will come from coolly provoking desired customer behaviors as if their customers are programmable drones. And you can succeed that way--companies did it for decades prior to the current social media landscape, and are still doing it with certain kinds of digital marketing today--but it's an expensive and wearying success, because you're swimming against the natural and algorithmic dynamics of the landscape. Whereas actually connecting and interacting with your followers as real people puts energy into everything you do.