The Quality Vs. Quantity Debate In Social Media

An interesting discussion happened in #BufferChat (Wednesdays, Noon EST) on Twitter the other day. 1c6163bThis question came up: Would you rather have more followers, or more engaged followers?

Of course, all of the social media purists lit up the chat with an overwhelming answer. Engagement. Quality over quantity. What good are followers if they aren’t engaging with you? Sounds right, right?

That was my initial instinct as well. Of course I would rather have engaged followers. Duh. No brainer. But then I thought about it some more. Could I have gone to any of my uppity-ups in any previous company and convinced them that a follower number in social media didn’t matter? We reported on follower growth every week. If the engagement numbers had gone up, but follower numbers gone down, would the social media team be applauded, or would their necks be on the line?

What brand page with 500 followers, even if they have an engagement rate of 50%, is going to be taken seriously? If Pepsi stopped growing their follower base in favor of engaged followers, and Coke didn’t, does Coke’s larger follower base imply that they are more popular? Engagement rates aren’t something the average person understands, nor would care about.

Maybe you say it isn’t a popularity contest. And maybe the purist in me thinks you’re right. But the practicality of the matter is that sometimes it’s all about the image you portray in addition to the engagement you receive. Social media is basically marketing, with a twist.

Then, I thought about all of my introvert friends. The lurkers, or a better name for them, the quiet followers (one of the 7 types of social media fans and probably a significant portion of your follower base.) They don’t engage, but that doesn’t mean that they are irrelevant as a follower, or of no use to your business. Maybe, they just need a different type of content, or a stronger call to action to get them to push that “like” button. Maybe that’s on us as social media folks.

I think most everyone can agree that we’d like quality over quantity. We should also think about that when it comes time to “buy” followers. (I can hear your collective gasp.) There’s nothing wrong with targeting to increase your follower base. That vanity number is still important to most of the C-Suite. That said, I think there are better practices than others. If you’re a U.S.-based business, for example, you could buy some pretty cheap followers in other countries, but that seems to be a waste of money.

Also, yes. More engagement can lead to more followers. However, try to start an account from scratch, and see how much time you’d have to invest to get a good baseline.

I guess the bottom line is that social media purist ideals are what we should strive for, while understanding that to be successful in the world in which we are employed, we may not always get there.


These posts are my views, and my views alone, based on my experience in social media.

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Article was originally posted to Linkedin by Carmen Collins (CLAS ’94)

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