Social Media is a great tool for getting your message out there. Whilst there are many SM platforms available, here I want to focus on two – LinkedIn and Twitter. Increasingly, these are being used by SMEs as part of their brand development and sales outreach strategies. When looking at building a strategy, one of the first questions we would ask is: What is your objective? The easy answer to this question where both Twitter and LinkedIn are concerned, is “I want to get loads of followers”. But a bit like “I need to be at the top of Google”, this objective is a little short-sighted. Follow the “number of followers objective”, and being “successful” on These social platform is pretty easy! You just have to Google “Gain Twitter/LinkedIn followers/Contacts” and you will find plenty of people happy to help you reach that goal. But quite obviously this would be wasted effort. Gaining followers should only be part of your objective. In my view the real objective should be
“I want to engage with my marketplace, build a relationship with relevant contacts, and demonstrate that I add value”.
On this basis, number of followers is only one measurement. Equally important should be quality of those followers and the level of engagement I have with them.
For the rest of this post, I am going to focus on the first of these – Quality of Followers.
From a marketing perspective, the quality of your follower base should be judged on the following:
- Are they relevant to my business?
- Do they have something valuable to add to the discussion?
Are they Relevant?
If a contact is relevant, then normally this relevance should be 2 way, and as such, the ‘they follow me and I feel it is worth following them back’ (or visa versa) rule should apply. On LinkedIn, accepting connections should be because there is a potential mutual benefit to the connection, not simply because they invited you to connect.
Followers/Following on Twitter
On Twitter, managing the follower/following ratio is an art, which when you get it right will deliver a really valuable account, and a great tool for promoting your brand. There will be people who follow you who are totally not relevant (People playing the ‘I want hundreds or thousands of followers and hope most people will follow me’ game), and there will be people you follow who legitimately will not follow you back (National press, and the BBC, to name two) In general, if your follower base is relevant the follower/following ratio should tend towards 1:1. At this point it is worthwhile saying a little more about this key statistic; the ratio of Followers to Following. Sufficient to say:
- A ratio of 1:1 (Followers=Following) is a good start, and shows that people respect your views and you are playing the game
- A ratio of >1:1 (Followers>Following) This generally suggests that you have something to say that people find valuable, and so should be seen as a positive position. That said, if the ratio moves significantly away from 1 (assuming you are not a major celeb) it could suggest that you are not engaging with your audience, and that those following you are not relevant enough or you to follow them back. A very high ratio could also be seen as a little arrogant (They should follow me, but are not worthy of following)
- A ratio of <1:1 (Followers<Following) This generally suggests you are trying too hard to get followers and people are not relevant and/or not seeing the value in your input, and so should be seen as a negative position.
As a rule of thumb, a ratio of between 1 and 2 is a good benchmark to use for your own account, and when choosing who to follow
Although I am not going to go into this in detail as there is already plenty out there on the subject (This post for example).
Do they have something valuable to add to the discussion?
So, in assessing the relevance of your followers, you are happy that they are relevant to your market and have a healthy Follower/Following ratio. The final point to consider is are they saying anything of value, or indeed anything at all (Almost 50% of Twitter’s 1 billion users have never sent a tweet!) Do they engage with their Twitter audience? Are they tweeting/retweeting, and is their input in turn being retweeted? Having great follower statistics is pointless unless they are communicating. 2 questions to ask about your follower activity:
- Is their content interesting?
- Is their content relevant?
And if the answer to these are “Yes” then a follow-up: Is their content consistent & sustained? If the answer is again yes, they are definitely worth following and are a great follower to have on your books. Following these “rules” should put you on the path to a healthy follower base. But this is only useful if you are engaging with them in a valuable and relevant way, but that is Part 2!
Connections on LinkedIn
Looking to LinkedIn, the process of managing your connections is much more managed. As connections need to be mutually accepted by both parties. Think of it as a business network, when issuing or reviewing connection invites think – is this person someone I would talk to at a networking event. If yes, than a connection is probably relevant. Many of my Linked In connections are just this. When I meet someone at a networking meeting, rather than exchanging cards, that will be put in a pocket & forgotten, I will take a card, and suggest we connect on LinkedIn. Once connected, these people will receive the content I post on the platform, and I will see theirs. Helping us to stay connected. As a result I have around 500 connections on LinkedIn many of whom I have met. Like Twitter, on LinkedIn its about Quality not Quantity when it comes to followers.