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The Allure of Social Media Vanity Metrics
August 15, 2012 - 9:39pm

Let's begin with a hypothetical scenario*: When an individual Twitter account increases from having 3,000 followers to more than 20,000, one might think that that particular account was benefiting from some sort of notoriety. However, in this hypothetical situation, let's say that said Twitter account "magically" grows its following daily like clockwork. Each day, this account adds the exact same number of followers. Using a Twitter stats tool like Twitter Counter, the follower growth is blatantly fraudulent. Twitter follower numbers rarely match up on a day-to-day basis (e.g. check out my growth chart). When an account's following increases by the same number of followers for several days, something is amiss.

Twitter followers and Facebook Page likes have become the leading vanity metrics in the social media space. Everyone seems to want to have more followers or page likes. However, these vanity metrics are not a measure of credibility, interaction, or engagement. As indicated above, Twitter followers can be purchased. For about $250 you can purchase 20,000 followers. Note, most of the 20,000 followers that you purchase will be fake. Fortunately, a service has emerged that lets you determine the authenticity of an account's following. The "Fake Follower Check" lets you see percentage data on the accounts that follow you and lists them as "fake," "inactive," and "good." In the hypothetical situation, the fake follower check might have returned a score of around 55% fake, 35% inactive, and 10% good. By comparison, my Twitter account has a fake follower check score of 2% fake, 13% inactive, and 85% good. In short, you can now reasonably detect those accounts that have not experienced truly organic follower growth.

So why do people buy Twitter followers and Facebook Page likes? Well, the answer seems to be that it's not just due to vanity. For a lot of people, the number of followers that an account has increases said account's credibility. I've actually seen marketing copy that equates someone's Twitter follower count as proof of their knowledge of a certain topic.

Twitter followers and Facebook Page likes should increase organically. People should interact with you because of the quality of your content. For Student Affairs practitioners, a departmental Twitter account will slowly grow its following via engagement, promotion, and content. The same thing goes for Facebook Pages. Your Page likes will gradually increase over time. Sure, you may run a promotion and gain a lot of likes on your page in the short term, but real engagement takes time…iPad giveaways only make one person really happy. Adding value to the lives of your students via social media is all about creating connections, building community, and engagement. Vanity metrics can easily be manipulated…don't worry about your Twitter follower count. Be concerned with your interactions…those are much more meaningful.

*Of course this is a real scenario, but I am not going to out someone for buying followers. Besides, it's up to them to recount.

 

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