Big can be Better. #28 #cong14

By Andrew McLindon.

Social Media Users Are Customers Not Followers 

It has rightly been said that organisations would be better to focus on the quality rather than volume of their followers on social media. 

This is in line with any decent marketing or communications strategy – target the right message at the right audience through the right medium. 

Since social media activity can be time consuming for organisations, it is not about being niche for the sake of it, but ensuring your social media activities are efficient and effective. 

But it also shouldn’t mean ruling out building and maintaining a mass social media audience. 

Just as every strategy should be tailored to its organisation, sometimes bigger is best. 

In the case of a national body such as An Garda Síochána that can potentially impact on every citizen’s life, building a large social media audience is critical as it allows us to distribute time-sensitive information directly to as many people as possible. 

Such an example is the impact of social media in Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) alerts. These are nationwide alerts sent out via the media and other partners when An Garda Síochána believe that a child or children are at significant risk. In order to assist with the investigation, we need as many people as possible to view the CRI Alert. 

If people ever want proof of the positive power of social media then the reaction to CRI Alerts is a vivid demonstration.  

A recent CRI alert had a reach of over 380,000 on Facebook with over 6,000 interacting with the post, and was viewed by nearly 60,000 on Twitter. Even when we launched a CRI Alert at 3.11am it was seen by 7,000 people on Facebook within two hours and 200,000 by 10am. 

That kind of reach would not have been possible without having a mass audience.

However, it is how this scale is built that is critical. “Buying” followers or likes through competitions will get you numbers, but leaves you at the mercy of fickle fans that may not return. 

Instead, there should be a focus on having a sustainable, quality audience. Without that, you may end up broadcasting to a large amount of people who aren’t listening, or don’t care or don’t engage. In other words, you are wasting your time. 

And when I say quality, for the purposes of An Garda Síochána this is not in relation to having followers mainly from a particular demographic, but the percentage of our social media audience who engage with us either through comment, re-tweets, likes or shares. 

The aim should be to attract an audience that will regularly come back for more because they are being given what they want and feel they are being listened to. (This is the ideal and I’m not claiming that we always meet that ideal in An Garda Síochána.)

In other fields, this is called customer service. 

As recent new entrants to mass retailing have demonstrated, quality and quantity don’t necessarily have to be in opposing camps. 

There is nothing wrong in chasing numbers as long as it is done correctly and for the right strategic reasons. What is really needed is a focus on building social media loyalty. 

This requires a constant focus on the customer and their needs. The question is whether organisations are treating their social audience, regardless of its size, as followers or customers. There is a crucial and critical difference. 

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie