Quantity vs. Quality in Social Media

socialmediaThousands of fans, hundreds of likes, tons of shares…every digital marketer’s dream, right? Jeff Elder of the Wall Street Journal takes a closer look behind the numbers and finds a different story.

“In May 2013, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. bought ads to promote its brand page on Facebook. After a few days, unhappy executives halted the campaign—but not because they weren’t gaining enough fans. Rather, they were gaining too many, too fast,” Elder writes.

“We were fearful our engagement and connection with our community was dropping” as the fan base grew, says Allison Sitch, Ritz-Carlton’s vice president of global public relations, quoted in Elder’s article.

They were probably right to pull the plug. A recent Gallup Inc. report shows that “social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be.”

In fact, more than 62% of the consumers they polled said social media had no influence on their buying decisions. Apparently simply having a mass of “friends” or “followers” is not the same as having real connections to loyal customers. And that critical mass can make it impossible for companies to use their social media channels for immediate customer care, one of the things that social media can be truly good at.

So how should we look at social media moving forward? According to Thomas J. Benton of The DMA, we need to think more in terms of quality than quantity.

“Consumers are highly adept at tuning out irrelevant brand-related Facebook and Twitter content,” Benton writes. “When newsfeeds are bombarded with impersonal posts or irrelevant advertising, consumers ignore brands and marketers do not see a strong return on their social media investment. A brand can have thousands of ‘likes’ with only a few dozen consumers actually engaging with the content.”

Combine this idea with the fact that Facebook’s recently algorithm change has turned the channel into a pay-to-play interaction, and driving that engagement is becoming even harder. Benton recommends looking to data-driven marketing to focus on the quality of the connections you are making.

“In particular, data-driven marketers have always combined marketing by the numbers and marketing for high-quality followers through precise targeting to ensure that the right message reaches the right consumer at the right time,” he reminds us.

While social media has certainly had an impact on how we live our lives, it hasn’t changed that basic tenet of good marketing.