Does Size Matter? (In Social Media Analytics)

When I worked for AOL on their AIM instant messenger product, we used to have parties every time we’d reach a new subscriber milestone – 50M users! 60M users!! Sadly, this was before the dot com crash when companies were being hyped based upon the number of users (even free users), not the amount of revenue brought in. This feels very similar to people beating their chests in social media – where there is ongoing pressure to “have the biggest list in town”.

Still, today’s reality is that social media managers and CMOs are being told to measure and justify their efforts – ideally to translate those large lists into real dollars and ROI. Many social media management platforms now include analytics tools to to capture key social media statistics (re-tweets, mentions, likes, demographics, etc.). In addition, new services such as Klout, Empire Avenue, Peer Index, and others are surfacing to further benchmark, track, and compare what you’re doing.  (See my 2011 extensive Twitter Application List for others)

As people continue to take different approaches toward building a social presence, it’s interesting to see how these different approaches are evaluated by these benchmarking services.

For example, let’s look at two simplistic, yet real life approaches by individuals:

Me (@ericsgoldstein): Over the past month, I have taken a semi-aggressive approach to build a social following on a new Twitter account and most recently, my fan page on Facebook. This has included using tools like Tweet Adder to follow people I want to follow me, writing posts both on my and our company blog and as well as sites like Social Media Today, and trying to maintain a steady stream of semi-valuable tweets / info. As a result, I’ve taken my # of followers from 50 to around 2000 in around a month.

Chris (@csinkus): A co-worker of mine has taken a much more targeted approach over time to Twitter. While he has less than 300 Twitter followers, it’s more relationship focused in that he only follows people that he’s met or talked to personally via sales efforts / trade shows / etc.. He’s also been taking part in some hashtag focused discussions – resulting in “one on one” type retweeting. Arguably, his followers know him more and are more engaged.

Let’s compare those approaches using Klout and Peer Index:

It’s very obvious to see the impact of my (in red) Twitter efforts when you compare what Klout calls “True Reach” to Chris (in blue) over the past 30 days.

But, it’s fuzzier when you look at other statistics.

My overall Klout rating has continued to grow, but Chris remains only 5-9 points behind me.

“Network” is also very close while “Amplification” is slightly impacted by the size of my follower list.

Now look at another rating service, Peer Index:

Chris has been building his rating longer and seems to tweet more often than me, resulting in a stronger PeerIndex and much higher Audience rating — even though I have almost seven times the followers that Chris does.

It’s also fascinating to look at Klout scores for other types of users. Below you can see a celebrity, a politician, arguably a Twitter Spammer, along with me and Chris. Charlie has taken his increasing fame and huge Twitter following to further strengthen his own brand and receive paid endorsements. Much has been said about about the role that Facebook & Twitter played in Barack’s election in 2008. @followmeifolowu has built over 40K followers simply by tweeting that he’ll tweet your name if you tweet his. Questionable value (outside of a little affiliate business he seems to be driving), but he’s managed to get a fairly respectable Klout score.

Finally, I took a quick look via a service called “TweetValue” which claims to be able to translate your Twitter Account into real dollars. Here’s the results there:

Charlie Sheen: $86,508
Barack Obama: $112,291
Follow Me I Follow You: $23,530
Eric Goldstein: $710
Chris Sinkus: $200

Bottom line, a large follower list may seem like an easy measurement of how successful your social media efforts. You’ll hear things like “if you don’t have more than X thousand followers or likes, you don’t have a strong social media presence. However, as TJ Crawford recently posted in his recent post on inflated ego around followers, you really need to be finding ways to measure engagement and results. Chris shows how a small targeted and engaged following can generate decent and growing “social media scores”. Take time to look at things like re-tweets, mentions, likes, and ratings from these new benchmarking services. Most importantly, try to define what your measurement of success is. Is it revenue? E-Mail Subscribers? Comments? Qualified leads? If your social media efforts are not driving the results you need, it might be time to step back and try something new.


One response to this post.

  1. Thanks for sharing this! It’s good to see real world examples and data to support that an engagement strategy works. Is it counter to the whole “get more followers” method, sure. But it’s also more sustainable because you grow in a more organic manner. It’s also nice to know that people are listening, your updates aren’t just another tweet in the stream.


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