Facebook likeAs Facebook this week announced they’d removed a number of false accounts, some of the top Facebook pages saw their ‘Like’ count drop (read the Inside Facebook article here).

I’ve had a few conversations recently with small businesses who want to get hundreds of ‘Likes’ or fans on Facebook and thousands of followers on Twitter. I always ask the same questions – Why? What is their value? How are you going to use the data?

Why do you want hundreds of likes or thousands of followers?

A common misconception among small business is that they think they need to match what larger companies are doing when it comes to their social media efforts. Additionally, the belief that you need thousands of fans and followers appears to have been dispelled and as Facebook has proven by its action this week, buying fake ‘likes’ is a big no-no and I’d suggest the same goes for buying followers.

However, as a small business you don’t need thousands of fans or followers and instead the focus should be on connecting with your current customers and potential customers within the area in which you operate. You should view your fans and followers as ambassadors for your business, not just another number that looks good on paper. That way, you can grow the numbers of fans and followers organically by providing more relevant, tailored information and taking an approach to social media that creates engagement.

Either way, what value can fans and followers provide to your business? If you’re not analysing the data that’s available, why are you bothering with social media at all?

So on to my next question…

What can fans and followers actually mean for small businesses?

Twitter followers

Don’t get me wrong, it’s always great to know you have a significant following and there are a number of benefits to having any fans and followers at all:

  • increased visibility for your company due to the virality of posts;
  • improved perception as an ‘influencer’;
  • followers retweeting your messages – a free and easy way to promote offers and specials;
  • connecting with other influencers in your industry;
  • PR benefits, etc.

Don’t forget though – as quickly as your fans and followers can spread positive messages, they can just as easily turn a bad experience with your business into a social media and PR nightmare.

How can you use the data available?

The various social media sites usually provide access to analytics for company pages and some even provide insights for your personal profiles. Using the data that’s available,¬†ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the demographics?
  • Do they match your target audience?
  • Who is most likely to use your services/buy your products?
  • Do they engage with the content on your social media profiles?
  • What content have people most engaged with?
  • Do you need to tailor your messages to suit the social media audience?

By answering those questions, you’ll start to see the value of your fans and followers.

Don’t forget to regularly review your performance on social media sites and make changes where necessary to keep things fresh.