Fans, Followers and Klout Don’t Matter

Socialbakers founder and CEO Jan Rezab estimated in his remarks at a recent conference that 70% of all fan questions posted on social media channels are not responded to. He went on to say that 80%-90% of companies are in social media, only 30% are using it properly.

Given the questions I see on PR forums about how to increase the number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers or one’s personal Klout score, this is not surprising.

People like the illusion of quantitative success in social media. Numbers are meaningless though without engagement. Without interaction with your audience that moves them to action, so what?

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Before Facebook and Twitter, PR flacks often pointed to ad values based on column inches or circulation numbers of potential readers or viewers. The shift to online content provides more exact determination of how many people were exposed to content such as page views, but that still isn’t what matters.

Communication has always been and continues to ultimately be about action. Whether it convinces someone to purchase a product, influences them in a voting booth, or changes their behavior, communication is about the number of people it causes to act.

What are the penalties of not engaging?

Social media is simply a new form of word of mouth advertising that is quicker and more pervasive. According to TARP Worldwide, the average upset customer tells nine people, one in five tells more than 20 people. On social media, the reach can be exponential.

When United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s $3,500 guitar, he turned to YouTube and his video had over 500,000 views in three days and he was the guest on many news programs. The Times newspaper reported that United Airline’s stock price fell 10%, costing stockholders about $180 million in value, though that has been questioned.

The rewards of responding

Chick-fil-A has been dogged by negative press following a New York Times article which called into question a Pennsylvania franchisee’s support by way of a food donation of a marriage seminar hosted by a outspoken group against homosexuality. Chick-fil-A responded with a video on Facebook by the company’s president Dan Cathy and press release to say that they “serve and value all people and treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect.”

Over a year later, the issue still plagues the company. When a new franchise was set to open in northern Virginia, “Mikey” let them know he was not a “fan” of the Chick-fil-A on their Facebook page.

The resulting exchange demonstrates perfectly the low expectations from customers and the power of engagement all in one: “Wow did not expect a reply. Thanks, I would be very interested in this…Would be nice to be able to go again and eat some good chicken”. Two quick responses — which only took moments to write — potentially turned a critic into a customer.

The bottom line

While clients and executives love the quantitative numbers, social media is about about the quality of engagement rather than the quantity of of fans and followers.

To encourage and sustain engagement, Rezab recommended the following:

  1. Open yourself up to your audience; have an open wall and profile, and give fans an opportunity to post questions or queries.
  2. Respond to fan questions and, as a benchmark, try to respond to at least 75% of all fan questions posted on your wall. Try not to leave fans waiting for a response.
  3. Make the responses personal. Don’t use automated responses when answering questions.

To this I would add:

  1. Know when to walk away. Interact a few times online, then take it offline if it’s still not resolved.
  2. Ignore the trolls. Not every post warrants a response.
  3. If they’re right, be contrite and fix it
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6 Responses to Fans, Followers and Klout Don’t Matter

  1. karen snyder says:

    Nice post, Todd! I especially like the Chick-Fil-A example. We see a similar positive effect on the FAA Facebook page when we respond to critics in person.

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  3. This is great! I think Chik-fil-A corporate could take a tip or two from you in regards to what is currently going on with them. One statement to the masses isn’t going to solve anything, but actually connecting and engaging with individuals may.

    • Todd Post says:

      Thanks May. Little did I know when I wrote this that the national Chick-fil-A story would resurface! Perhaps Chick-fil-A corporate was relying on the fact that they do have a large “tribe” as Seth Godin would describe them to rush to their aid? Supporters are certainly chiming in as much as the critics, despite the limited response from the main office.

      Chick-fil-A is hurting itself by being indecisive with the current brouhaha. Either hang it all out there like Dan Cathy seemed to in his Baptist Press interview or “…leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” as stated on follow up on Facebook. Their waffle fries are great, but waffling exacerbates the issue.

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