Statista shows a timeline of active users for Facebook which indicates that as of Q2 2015 Facebook has 1.49 billion active users. Anyone who has logged in during the last 30 days is considered an active user. A similar report shows Twitter has 304 million active users.
The question I find myself asking is…
Do the numbers matter?
Now Facebook with it’s 1.49 billion active users is an obvious one to discuss. I mean, it can really help if you are trying to reach a wider audience, having that number of people to tap into.
Well, yes and no.
One big problem for a lot of small businesses is trying to reach new customers. The trouble is Facebook is all about friends and family, so the first people you normally get to like your page are those. They may like you, but don’t give two hoots about helping you to market your brand. That’s what liking and sharing Facebook posts does, it helps to promote your brand by exposing your posts to other people.
If all of the people that like your Facebook page are brand evangelists (people who really like you and your brand) then you will get lots and lots of engagement. If they aren’t though, you may find things worse than if you had fewer followers.
Here is a video by Veritasium that explains the problem in detail.
It highlights the difference between quality followers and those that are fake, but you can read that as meaning anyone that doesn’t really care about your brand. When you post to Facebook, it only displays that post to a limited number of your page’s followers. If enough of those followers like, comment and share your post, then Facebook display it to more followers and also their friends. Now if that initial group only includes one genuinely engaged follower, you are going to be stuck in a rut that is impossible to get out of without promoting your post.
What is a brand evangelist then?
Simply, it is someone who not only supports your brand, but is actively engaged with it and wants to share that with others.
It isn’t easy getting people to really like you enough to be classed as an evangelist. To do it you need to spend time actively engaging with them first. Whether that is done on or offline doesn’t really matter, the point is it won’t happen overnight and there are no shortcuts. This is not something you can game.
Does the type of social network make a difference?
I mentioned above the tendency to get your friends and family to like your Facebook page when you are first starting out. That is true for any social network, as long as the people you know are using it. The difference is that some networks lend themselves better to expanding your reach than others.
Twitter for instance, is a very good medium for broadcasting messages to masses of people. The short format lends itself to posting sound bites and links to longer form articles. Exchanges are fast and to the point and most importantly, there is no stigma attached to following someone that you do not know. Consequently brands do really well, because it is easier to gain new followers, but also because people don’t visit the network expecting to see baby and wedding photos from their friends.
It’s this alignment between user intent and the content that is posted that I wrote about in my blog Google+ collections have re-written the book. In that I give some examples drawn from my own experiences, which may surprise you if you believe any of the Google+ ghost town stories that have been floating around the internet since it was in beta (they aren’t true by the way).
What does all this mean for you?
It is often said that you should maintain a social media presence on each of the social networks where your audience is. This has never been more true, but with one caveat. Just because one particular social network has more active users than another, doesn’t mean you will see greater success in that social network. You should explore all avenues and spend time in the ones that work best for you. Oh and don’t pay too much attention to the numbers given out by the major social networks, because really it’s just bragging isn’t it?