Why Popularity on Social Media Doesn’t Equal Success

Ever since childhood, we’ve strived for popularity. We want to hang out with the cool kids, avoid getting picked last for that game of kickball and get invited to all the fun slumber parties.

The value of popularity is been something that’s been engrained in our psyche throughout our entire lives.

But as kids, we didn’t walk around boasting the number of friends we have. Today, we do that thanks to social media.

With just a few clicks, we can see exactly how many Twitter followers, Facebook fans and LinkedIn connections you have. We can see how many people have viewed your YouTube videos or shared your latest blog post.

And, with all these numbers so easily available, people and businesses often get caught up in a fantastic pissing contest over who is the most popular.

Although these vanity metrics can hold some value, it is not a true indicator of business success. After all, followers and fans can be bought. And, more importantly, a large following doesn’t necessarily equal more sales.

Measuring up

Now that we’ve reached the end of the year, it’s time to evaluate your marketing and social media efforts to see what worked, what didn’t and determine ways to tweak and improve your approach for next year.

If success means online popularity for you, that’s great. But, most businesses would rather have increased revenue and profits.

If you’re in the second camp, here are a few questions you can ask to begin to evaluate your efforts:

  • How much traffic did social media drive to your website?
  • Where did your traffic come from (i.e. search, referrals, ads, etc.)?
  • What kind of actions did they take once they got there?
    • Did they leave a comment on your blog?
    • Did they subscribe to your blog or e-letter?
    • Did they purchase something on your site?
    • Did they take the next step to become a client?
  • Where did your leads come from? How many came from social media?
  • Where did your clients come from this year?
  • Did increased interaction and engagement on social media lead to new business?
  • Did clients become more loyal to your brand by buying again or referring others?
  • Did social media help shorten the amount of time it took to close a deal?
  • Did overall revenue and profit margins increase?

Certainly, these questions just scratch the surface of what you will need to ask to evaluate your efforts. And, what you consider depends largely on your goals from this past year and the marketing efforts you undertook.

But, hopefully, this helps you look at the numbers that really matter instead of the ones that everyone else can see.

Run Your Own Race

As you plan for 2013, it’s important to develop the marketing and social media plan that makes the most sense for
 your business instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing.

I call this running your own race. That means
 choosing the right goals, the right social networks and the right ways to spend your time.

And sometimes, that even means forgoing popularity for something that’s far more important for your bottom line.

What do you think? Are you too caught up in popularity and vanity metrics? How do you measure success?

Image credit: Adam Fagen

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Laura Click

Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

9 replies on “Why Popularity on Social Media Doesn’t Equal Success”

Love the concept of 1,000 true fans. The number might change depending on the goals and size of the company, but the idea is spot on. Thanks for sharing, Craig!

And yes, cheers to wonderful connections – like you! 🙂

Hmm… it seems I’m becoming a go-to whipping boy. : (

(Not much of a reward for daring to come forward and write the counterpoint to the social media world’s prevailing opinion…)

Still, this is a very good piece, Laura. I think it’s full of great end-of-year advice for businesses, particularly in terms of self-reflection and analysis of what works and what doesn’t so we make good investment choices going forward. Well done as always,


No, no, no!!! I certainly hope you didn’t take this post that way, Steve. This wasn’t aimed at you AT ALL or trying to demote the value of followers or fans. The problem is that for many businesses, that’s ALL they look at. Certainly, audience can be an indication of success (that’s why I linked to your post), but it shouldn’t be the only thing we consider. After all, there are plenty of people and businesses who have built large followings, but are still in the poorhouse.

Essentially, it all comes back to business goals and how you’re using social media channels to accomplish them. Your measurement needs to match the goals. And for those who want to use social to drive business, looking at fans and followers isn’t enough.

Make sense?

Perhaps I should have linked on a different phrase. I certainly don’t want you to think I’m punishing you for being willing to share your unique and valuable perspective.

It’s all good, Laura! I’m just giving you a hard time– mostly. : )

You know, I was just re-freshing our “true” numbers, and the strategy is playing out > fakes are being flushed out, and the % of good followers is rising. Here’s the thing, though. While LTCA is having one of our best years ever, in concert with a very lively social media year, I’m not entirely convinced that one caused the other.

There have been very real gains from all of our social media activities, NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT, but let’s posit the following: if we dropped off the social media landscape tomorrow, to what extent would it affect our BOTTOM LINE?

That’s the $64,000 question. There have been many things I’ve done in 2012 which increased my online/offline influence which were not a product of social media. Imagine the possibilities if I could unleash 100% of my times on those…

Whew! I’m relieved. I certainly didn’t intend to offend you!

As to your $64,000 question, i hate to sound like a broken record, but it really depends on goals. What are you trying to get out of your social media efforts? Are you trying to increase revenues? Or, are you trying to increase loyalty among your current clients? Or, provide customer service? Depending on your goals, you may measure different things.

Make sense?

And, you may find that even though there might not be a direct correlation from your social media efforts to sales, it certainly could be a factor that has led to your success.

For us, I think it’s been all about general increased visibility and brand awareness, which we’ve realized in spades.

We’re not bloggers, social media marketers, authors… we sell a very different product than many of the people who post here. If we had 1,000 loyal, hardcore followers, we’d go out of business very fast.

Those 1,000 would have to become referral sources in some way, ie “centers of influence”, endorsers… forwarding your CTA’s, generating business for you. I’m not sure even the most loyal followers would sustain that for long w/o a quid pro quo (which we are legally barred from doing).

So, I don’t think Twitter is best used as a customer-generating tool for us… I think it’s been terrific as a place for fostering professional relationships, for PR, for promoting consumer education, media awareness, teachable moments, reacting and shaping news, and our own library which we can reference for wonderful, catalogued stories. It’s also a living testimonial to which we can direct accounts to say, “This is who we are.”

Hey Laura,

I love this. I think we underestimate the value of small any loyal audience because we get so caught up in metrics and measurements. I would rather have a profound impact on one person than be a blip on the radar of 1000.

So glad you like it, Srini!

It’s really interesting how everyone took something a little different from this post. To your point, I think that it boils down on your goals. For you, it’s about having a connected community. For businesses, it might be different. The bottom line is that metrics are important, but you need to focus on the right metrics that align with your goals.

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