Whether you are publishing a book or launching a business it’s seems like simple logic that you want as many people as possible following your social media. In the emerging e-commerce economy, followers are seen as potential customers. Sure not everyone will buy, but just fact that they showed enough interest to follow you is a sign that they are interested–or it was. A big social media following is no longer a true benchmark of a successful entrepreneur.
Almost as soon as social media was born it morphed from communities of like-minded people into a world-wide popularity contest. Numbers are shorthand for being in demand; a fact that was probably true at first. But like everything in the entrepreneurial realm someone quickly figured out a way to make it look like tons of people were interested in you, for a price, of course. It impossible to miss the people hawking Twitter followers on Twitter. If you’ve posted anything about your business they’ve found you. It’s so easy to increase your number of followers by ten fold. Artificially inflating your numbers looks fantastic if you are trying to convince a publishing company or investor that you have a solid base of potential customers in place. Never mind the fact that most of them do not speak English and have no use for your product.
Fake Amazon reviews are another way entrepreneurs make their social reach and popularity look much larger than it is. These are also for sale and about to become harder to pass off as real. Amazon is cracking down on them because they destroy the public’s trust, they diminish the Amazon brand and the brand of all sellers on Amazon.
I’m bringing this up today for two reasons. One, too many people just opening their e-business get needlessly frustrated when it looks like their competitors or fellow sellers are killing it when in fact they aren’t. It isn’t until you’ve been around for a while that you see that the number of likes, tweets, and reviews you have does not necessarily equal sales. The temptation to buy followers get stronger when you think everyone else is so far ahead of you, especially when you’ve been in business about the same amount of time. But getting anyone and everyone to show support for your business will do nothing but frustrate you in the end.
Which brings up reason number two for focusing on this subject. A social platform in vital to any e-business but one built on false numbers will collapse around you. No matter what you are selling there are great customers out there who will love your product or book. These are the people who buy from you once then with some nurturing, become repeat customers. These are the people who will gladly spread the word about your company, especially if they have had some personal contact from you. But how will you see them if they are lost in the chaotic sea of non-customers you’ve gathered on your social media. If you want to truly build your social platform and grow your business you need to concentrate your time and efforts on your core customers–communicate with them, cultivate them, appreciate them.
I met an author whose first book flew up the charts and became a best seller. I was in awe and jealous. What author doesn’t dream of this? But when she told the rest of her story I was surprised. Her second book didn’t sell nearly as well and she’s written several since. Some sold well, others not, but none matched the sales of the first book. She explained that what the burst of fame didn’t do was give her long-term name recognition with readers. She was the flavor of the month and soon forgotten by many. Instead of being upset by this she is concentrating her efforts on the few key fans who have bought all of her books. Her true success is coming from relatively few true followers who are first in line to buy her new work and spread the word through their social media. “Buy this book because I love it and it’s fantastic,” is a lot more effective than, “Buy my book.”
I’m seeing the beginning of the end for social media numbers being a benchmark for a successful e-company. It’s too easy to buy your way to big numbers and bogus glowing reviews. Investors and the general public are too savvy now. Once the curtain was pulled back revealing the fraud it devalued the real followers and reviews making them all less trustworthy.
It can be difficult to take your focus off your numbers, to stop the addictive habit of checking them all day, believing that they accurately reflect the health and potential of your company. But the good news is that once you do and you turn your focus onto individuals and building relationships with your core customers the entire platform building process becomes much more enjoyable. It changes your perspective from one of lack and fear to one of gratitude and potential.
If you are interested in reading more about developing your e-company by using social media to build relationships I recommend, “Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb. I also welcome your input and comments. Is your social media plan evolving? How has it changed in the past year or two?