Know which numbers are important.

We get so busy around here serving as the many different voices we represent, but when we come across a teachable moment, it’s time to take a second and share (I have two children, I’m prone to finding teachable moments).

Yesterday, one of my colleagues emailed regarding her client, that they are looking to grow their Facebook presence and she was interested in finding out if we manage aggressive campaigns to build audiences. Their main competitor has more than 22,000 Facebook fans and this company has less than 200. I immediately thought, no, this isn’t what we do. But felt it was important I take a close look and explain my rationale.

My first inclination was to see how long each company had even been on Facebook. The client has been there since 2009, but didn’t make an actual post until 2011, and most of those posts are images with simple sales messages – there’s nothing personal, there’s no “hook.” The other company has been on Facebook since 2010 and has been engaging, human and fun most of that entire time with regular posts.

But there are other things to consider in this “competition” as well.

When this competing company was gaining fans, I’d venture to say it was easier for a Facebook page to build an audience. Think about when you first got on Facebook, you likely clicked on almost any brand that asked. Nowadays, people are a little more picky because they want to discourage companies from loading up their newsfeeds. The likelihood of quickly building a community like that is lower, in my opinion. People join pages because they are either raving fans, they have a complaint or they want to win something or get a discount. In the past, there were sweepstakes companies could run. They could spend about $500 to give away a $500 gift card and people would join pages to win. Although this accomplished its goal (building numbers), there were issues with this. Individuals were joining pages left and right because they want to win $500 to Walmart, but they weren’t necessarily interested in the brand giving away that prize. So these were numbers – but they weren’t good¬†numbers – they weren’t potential customers. These sweepstakes were a great way to build a Facebook page, but not customers. And now, to my knowledge, the sweepstakes options are limited to companies who want to spend a minimum of $5000 plus the price of their prize, making it all but unattainable for smaller brands.

Moreover, Facebook, while still the major player in social media, might be losing members of the next generation who are finding other social channels they prefer. Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, this is where the next generation is.. today… and that can change at any moment. While that generation is probably not this company’s core demographic, it would be a shame to put all their eggs into the Facebook basket when in a few years, their buyer may not be there.

What’s important about social media is the engagement¬†– and this is what my company does. We create real conversations with real people that are on topic and off – we make the brand human. We use all the tools available and applicable to a brand… LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We create conversation. The numbers we see as important are engagement (shares, likes, comments) and click-throughs. We want to know the work we do isn’t just creating raving fans in the talking sense – but people who actually buy your product or service.

A company looking to focus solely on Facebook and who is more focused on Facebook numbers than building a community around their brand is probably not a great fit for us… I feel it sets us up for failure because we believe in organic, slow growth. We can run ads on Facebook – and they can be beneficial, but even if we were running $100 worth of ads a day ($3000 a month) we would not guarantee that we’d hit this 20,000+ number.

And setting my team up for failure? Not something I’m going to do. If we can educate this company, then perhaps there is a piece of business for us here. But this can only be the case if the company recognizes that growth can be slow. Realistic expectations are key.

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