How many times have you heard so-called “social media experts” preach, “don’t focus on the numbers?” That phrase is generally followed up with “social media is all about engagement and relationship building…just add value, the numbers don’t matter.” I have to admit, even I’ve been guilty to saying things similar to the above. I can understand the spirit of the argument. With social we have the opportunity to connect with people on a true 1 to 1 basis. And, while technology (e.g. twitter) facilitates that interaction it’s ultimately humans that need to make the time and effort to make the connection successful and meaningful.
Focusing on adding value and not the numbers is a nice sentiment. But, it’s a lie. Numbers do matter. The number of followers you have matters. Heck, the number of followers matters more than what you say to those followers. Don’t believe me? Ok, let’s look at a combination of the traditional marketing funnel (awareness, trial, purchase, etc.) and the concept of creating a groundswell. Guess what you need in both situations? You need a mass of people. Yeap. 5 people unfortunately is not a groundswell. But, 5 people who have massive reach can generate a groundswell. This is why companies try so hard to get an endorsement from Oprah. Oprah’s reach is so large and her influence so great that her endorsement can change the course of direction for a brand or product. That’s just a fact.
Again, I can understand the spirit of focusing on adding value. If you help 1 person, that 1 person might recommend you to another person, who you help, who recommends you to another, etc., etc., etc. But, think about that for just a second. The goal of adding value to one person is to get the word of mouth recommendation that ultimately does what? Increases the number of people you can reach. In other words, adding value is a precursor to generating a mass number of connections/followers.
Weather we want to believe it or not, investing in social media takes time, money, and resources. Companies and people need to have a means for evaluating their investment in social against other areas of focus. When the bean counters and CMOs are weighing their options, I can guarantee you an argument of “the numbers don’t matter” won’t hold water and will have you laughed out of the room.
Let’s look at this from another angle; specifically conversions. Now, the term conversion can be loose. It can mean an eMail sign up, a sale, a review, or something else entirely. But, the underlying foundation of “conversion” is getting someone to do something you find desirable. Conversions are measurable. When Dell talks about the $3 million in incremental sales they’ve generated from twitter, they’re talking about conversions. They converted X number of people on twitter to purchase Y amount of goods that translated into $3 million in sales. That’s simple math right? Ok, well guess what, companies look at conversion percentages. There are baselines and benchmarks for the percent of people that will convert. When we think about growing the number of conversions there’s really only two ways to do it.
- Increase your conversion percentage – if you’re talking to the same number of potential converts, but your success ratio increases, you win.
- Increase the number of people who might convert – if the conversion percentage holds true, but the number of potential converts increases, you win.
This isn’t a new concept. It’s been around for years. People and companies spend millions on optimizing the funnel. They want the conversion percentage to increase because it drives the bottom line. But, guess what? It’s easier to grow the top of the funnel that it is to optimize the funnel. Hell, in a lot of instances, it’s even cheaper. So, if it’s easier to grow the top of the funnel then don’t the numbers matter? If you have 100,000 twitter followers isn’t your potential influence to drive a conversion greater than someone who has 10 followers? Of course it is, and that’s why the numbers matter.
Let’s stop lying to ourselves. Let’s stop trying to sound preachy and altruistic. Let’s just be honest. In a world that’s driven by the bottom line, numbers matter…even in the real of social media.