Social Media Continues to Miss the Mark: The Overemphasis on Popularity
Are you seeking validation in vanity metrics? Find out why social media’s over-emphasis on (easily-manipulated) popularity signals betrays true authority in the age of “influence.”
Years have passed since I first became frustrated with people working in the social media / blogging world putting an overemphasis on popularity as if it demonstrates any semblance of authority.
I came across an article this morning on Twitter that discussed how companies are overvaluing Facebook “likes.” And I agree with that completely.
What is a “Like” Anyway?
In the end a “like” doesn’t equal a customer. It doesn’t even mean you have a lead. You can “like” a lot of things you can’t afford for example. It doesn’t mean you’re in the market for it. You could “like” a website after reading one good article and still never see enough value in it to go back. In the end, a “like” means very little.
A “like” is just another way of whipping out your trusty litter ruler to see who’s bigger than whom, and for friends or followers, a “like” is a near zero-effort activity.
It’s not new. It’s the same thing we see with Twitter spammers — the type who follow thousands of people they know they can’t realistically follow because they’re hoping for automatic follow-backs as if caring about what someone has to say should be the result of a reflex.
Rather, it’s all about who appears to have more friends, fans, followers, or whatever you want to call them today — who has the biggest list. And in the end, it doesn’t matter.
Large generic groups of people “liking” you or “following” you means very little. Building a following of a smaller group of people — but with a genuine and regular interest in what you have to say, sell, or do — will benefit you more.
Somewhere in this social media mix we lost the concept of targeting.
Popularity Alone Isn’t Social Proof
At this point I’m little more than embarrassed for the “social media professionals” who participate in these popularity contests or convince their clients that they should care about them. They’re still missing the mark.
In the end, who benefits from the hype around these popularity-based lists and emphasis on vanity metrics such as “likes?”
The social networks being promoted for starters.
Perhaps more important, those who benefit are the sites sharing these ranking lists in the first place. After all, if you can’t get attention by being a legitimate authority, there’s always linkbait. And let’s not forget all the unqualified social media consultants gaming clients who don’t know any better for an easy buck.
Popularity only matters as social proof if it comes with true influence. But the two are not one and the same. It’s time the PR community stopped confusing the two.
If you want attention, via social media or elsewhere, earn it for the right reasons. Don’t get caught up in meaningless metrics. Looking like a big deal is fun and all. But being a trusted source and someone people actually want to do business with is even better. That’s where real influence comes from.