Which is better? 50 qualified social media followers, or 1,000 followers, many of whom will never buy from you? The answer may surprise you.
In social media, reach is of critical importance. It directly impacts how much your content and messages get shared, it increases your business' ability to get found and generate leads, it can help extend your online footprint as a thought leader, and the list goes on. In other words, in an online world, social reach shouldn't be a trivial factor for businesses leveraging inbound marketing. So, have you figured out what the right answer to our first question is yet? If the title of this article wasn't enough of a hint, yes, more followers is always better.
It may seem obvious (more is always better....right?), but a lot of businesses fall into the trap of thinking fewer and more qualified is better. In this case, here's why it's not...
1. More followers means access to more followers' followers.
This concept, albeit simple, is pivotal to understanding the overall importance of reach, so here goes. Think about it: Every one of your fans/followers also has his/her own followers, be it 5, 500, or 5,000. Let's say that a follower who has 5,000 Twitter followers of his own shares one of your blog posts or retweets one of your tweets. Now, that content is getting exposed to 5,000 additional people who weren't directly following you. If you can understand that every one of your fans/followers might share your content with their friends and followers, now you can start understanding the awesome impact of reach. So even if that original follower of yours never becomes a customer himself, that doesn't mean one of his followers who saw your content because of him won't. Now that's some powerful stuff.
2. Influencers have, well, influence.
If you can build up a large following for your business in social media, you probably have a few influencers among the bunch. While these influencers may follow but never buy from you, remember that these people are called influencers for a reason. They can introduce you to co-marketing partnerships, put in a good word with investors, and provide introductions to other influencers, bloggers, and experts in your industry. For example, if you can solicit an introduction from an influencer to another industry blogger that you can contribute a guest blog post to, you'll probably benefit from a couple of inbound links. That follower may not have contributed any direct revenue to your business, but those inbound links are very valuable.
3. Followers who won't ever buy can still refer your business.
Indirect exposure to your followers' personal networks can be an invaluable source of business. Okay, so Frank the Facebook fan may never actually purchase your industrial vacuum cleaner for his teeny tiny small business office. But when his buddy, landlord Lenny, is searching for a new one for the apartment building he owns, Facebook fan Frank might just refer you some highly qualified business. Even if landlord Lenny isn't the type to participate in social media himself, his good buddy Frank is. Need I say more?
4. Social shares impact SEO.
The impact social media is having on SEO is only increasing. Search engines are taking social cues like social media shares into account when they're ranking your content, which means the more people you can get to share your content in social media, the better.
Let's say you own a dog grooming business, and you and one of your competitors each wrote a blog article about how to take care of your dog's coat in between visits to the groomer. But let's also say your competitor has 10 times as many social media followers than you and his article got tweeted 50 times, generated 20 likes on Facebook, and got quite a few shares on LinkedIn and Google+, too. All of a sudden, your competitor has quite a leg up when it comes to getting his article ranked in search ahead of yours. In other words, because social shares are now one of the factors search engines take into consideration when ranking your content, it behooves you to build up your following and encourage those social shares. If you tweeted your article and you have 1,000 followers compared to your competitors' 50 followers, you have a much better chance of generating social shares and a much better chance of ranking in search. Those people who shared your content may never become customers of your dog grooming business themselves, but someone who finds your article in search because of them might.
5. Your followers might surprise you.
If you've been doing your research and spending time developing buyer personas, you likely have a pretty solid grasp on who your ideal customers are. That's all well and good, but if you have a very narrow-minded idea of who exactly will buy your products and services, you could actually miss out on a completely different set of people who might also buy from you.
To use a classic example, the makers of baking soda had a very specific use case in mind for their product: baking. But we all know that the uses for baking soda extend way beyond baking -- it can also be used to extinguish small electrical fires, for personal hygiene, and as a cleaning agent, to name a few. And you can bet that some people who buy baking soda never even use it for baking.
The lesson here is that building up a large following in social media could expose your brand and products to a group -- or groups -- of people you might never have thought would be interested in what you sell. Your product or service may not have completely different, original uses like baking soda does, but your followers could still surprise you. Just because a social media follower doesn't fall neatly into one of your cookie cutter buyer personas, doesn't necessarily mean he won't buy from you.
Always Be Working to Build Social Reach
The ultimate takeaway here is this: just because followers may not directly turn into customers doesn't mean they're not valuable. Social media reach can be a powerful thing for any business, and the ones who understand this know that continuing to build reach is a smart social media tactic.
If building reach isn't something you're consciously doing, you may want to start working to attract more fans and followers for your social media accounts. In this article, we've got some great tips for building reach that can help get you going. Doing so can greatly increase the impact and ROI of your social media efforts. And if you're having a tough time convincing your boss that building reach is important, share this article with them :)
In what ways are you working to regularly increase your business' social reach?
Image Credit: Caitlin Doe
Originally published Feb 6, 2012 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017