Along with other tools in the social media world, a lot of emphasis is put on how many followers hook onto a Twitter account and its related messaging. The follower count is the one metric that provides an obvious measurement of the awareness of the Twitter account and its posts. Not surprisingly, this status then usually gets translated into an assumption that followers for businesses will automatically mean sales. Unfortunately, that’s a dangerous leap in logic.
Businesses can be quick to get caught up in the social media “follower” or “friend” race, translating the metric into some kind of barometer of activity success. While it does mean that consumers awareness of the business and its Twitter postings is increasing, the number of Twitter followers doesn’t automatically mean that sales increase as well. This is a critical point to understand; the return on investment of time, energy, and communication needs to mean something to be beneficial to a business.
There are some tools like Hashtracking, for example, that extrapolate even more awareness impact a Twitter account can have, which tends to make people think they are having an even greater effect on consumers. From a marketing perspective this sounds like gravy. The approach essentially takes the hashtag originally created by an author and calculates how much twittering has occurred on that particular message thread. Then, with some further number-crunching, the number of consumer impressions is then multiplied against the aggregate number of tweets. That in turn gives a user a metric that seems like a very powerful marketing reach.
Numbers are Relative
Like the TV commercial depicting a corporate board and one vice-president states to everyone he can make numbers say anything, the Twitter impression metric can be made to seem like a really powerful impact on market reach when in fact it may just be an empty number that means nothing. At some point, for all that Twitter activity and retweeting to mean something for a business, people actually have to connect to the business and buy something. If hours and hours are being spent managing tweets and not one message read converts into a sale or new customer, then the entire effort is waste for the purposes of a return on investment. The 2012 Forester Research Report “The ROI of Social Marketing,” gives an average conversion rate among small to mid-size businesses of 1.5 percent. Subscription sites experience similar to slightly higher rates, around 2.9 to 6 percent. At the end of the day, it’s not a matter of whether you are above or below the “industry average” – instead it’s about the financial success of your business.
Now, the above said, a marketing perspective may argue the opposite, arguing that by increasing awareness sales too will eventually increase. Consumers will have the business in mind when they think of a particular product or service and eventually will seek out the company. This is fine and dandy to say, but even the marketing department has to eventually be paid for. Only hard sales actually produce the money to keep a company going and growing.