Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's all about the numbers, right? RIGHT?

All this talk about Ashton Kutcher the last few days trying to "buy" his way to a million followers (looks like he will get his wish today) on Twitter got me thinking: Isn't he right? Isn't it really all about the numbers?

Stay with me for a minute. 

As PR pros and marketers, it's been beaten into our brain from day one. ROI. Results. Measures. All based on numbers. Dollar figures. Counts.

Shouldn't we bake those same measures and counts into the mix when integrating social media tools into our marketing and communications plans?

Shouldn't number of followers on Twitter matter? Number of RTs? Number of friends on Facebook? Number of comments on your blog? At the end of the day, as you counsel your clients, don't you need real numbers to demonstrate results and prove that you're moving the needle?

Or, is social media different?

Is it more about relationships--not numbers? Community--not ROI? Conversations--not sales?

In reality, it's a combo platter. Numbers certainly matter. Whether it's number of comments on a blog,  number of RTs on Twitter or sales tied to engagement in social networks. It's not the end-all-be-all. But it definitely has a place. 

On the flip side, relationships, community and conversations play a big part, too. Obviously. After all, isn't that why most of us are here? We're either interacting with each other or helping the brands we represent interact with their customers. In the process, we're building strong communities. Fostering relationships. And engaging in meaningful conversations every day. All to help build stronger brands.

Tell me--what do you think? Is engagement in social networks all about the numbers?


Chuck said...

Arik - an interesting post to be sure. I had a similar discussion on my blog, Measurement PR-spectives the other day. It stemmed from a conversation I had with David Alston from Radian6 about the differences between social and traditional media measurement. His thinking was that eyeballs matter a great deal more for traditional media than it does for social. I tend to agree with him, though I think numbers can at least be a helpful barometer for a person (or brand's) reach. So you're's a combo platter.

Kasey Skala said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kasey Skala said...

Blogger Kasey Skala said...

I think it depends on what your goal is with SM and what tools you are utilizing. A clip on YouTube? Sure, I could see worrying about numbers. But for Twitter, which I agree with your "building a community" approach, I don't think that approach means numbers. I think the whole rationale behind the 140 characters is to promote quality not quantity.

But like your response to me the other day, how do we really know that the "number-chasers" aren't listening?

*sorry for the duplicate response.

Richie said...

Arik, you are correct in this assessment. I've liked the term ROE (Return on engagement) for integrating social media in corporate and organizational communications. If we are not listening and measuring(#s), we won't have the relevant foundation for engaging (community) for business purposes.

The Sports Ace said...

Hey Arik -

I guess it all matters who you are, and what your goals with Twitter are. Sure, numbers matter to some extent, especially for celebrities trying to sell their value to popular culture. Ashton's 1-million-follower stunt could be seen as a look-at-me popularity contest, or simply as a play to vault Twitter into the mainstream. Either way, it worked.

Personally, I believe that Twitter is about quality over quantity. I want to connect with other like-minded people and engage/correspond with them, hopefully to mutual benefit. And from a business perspective, I'd rather reach a few key influencers and work with them to build word-of-mouth buzz than go a mile wide and an inch deep.

In both instances, I believe quantity stems from quality. The most powerful people in the social media space are the ones (like you) who deliver great value to the masses.

Jason Sprenger

BNR Design said...


I had this exact conversation with Scott Hepburn last week. We came up with basically the same thing. For better or for worse, the only real metric we can measure is follower count. All of the various grader/count site give it some weight no matter what other voodoo they throw in the mix.

It's an easily quantifiable number that anyone can understand. It's simple, wildly inaccurate, but simple.

That being said, there is something to be said about sheer numbers. Given enough followers, your chances for results increase however minutely. An account with 1,000,000 followers does not need to have a very good conversion rate to blow away an account with 500 followers, no matter how good the smaller account is.

SM is certainly about building relationships and getting more engagement bang for our buck, but you cannot ignore the numbers.

BNR Design said...

Oh yeah, I completely forgot to mention the other thing we came up with. There is no reason not to build both a large following AND a targeted one. With tools like Tweetdeck and now Seesmic stepping it up it's relatively easy to build large numbers and still filter out a lot of the noise.

I have found that my "pay attention to these people" group has grown faster as I have increase the number of people I follow. I have also found that I am getting a lot more feedback and interaction with quality people as the number of followers I have increases.

Facebook is making it pretty easy as well with the ability to easily turn people off of your stream.

Really the question should not be do the numbers matter, rather it should by why not do both?