Recently my inboxes have been inundated with friends in the PR and social media industry asking me (and most of their other contacts) to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ pages and twitter accounts of their clients.
Some of the requests that hit my inbox I don’t think twice about accepting- if I find the topic or brand interesting and relevant then I am happy to get involved and find out more. For others I find myself struggling to see what relevance it has to me and my daily life at all, and it is clear that the individual emailing is simply trying to increase numbers. Is it rude not to follow suite? Just as a brand will want their followers to contain genuinely interested people, I don’t want to hear about any old topic on a daily basis, or to be seen to absent-mindedly follow countless pages of questionable relevance.
My overall opinion on the benefits to the client is fairly mixed.
One one hand, it feels dishonest to the client. Particularly where page-likes and followers are included in the key performance indicators of the contract, simply having lots of the social media manager’s friends and colleagues becoming fans with the page seems to be missing the point, as well as not being a true account of who is engaging with the brand. Is raises the debate of ‘quality versus quantity’, particularly as any good social media strategy will have identified the client’s target market in order to create a following of interested potential and current customers. It is these individuals who will add value, generate leads and embed the brand in the relevant context, not randomly placed people who happen to be on the email database of whoever is managing the account.
However, isn’t widespread acknowledgement the key to going viral? If, say, 50 of the social media manager’s friends follow the instructions and ‘like’ the page, it is likely that this will appear in their friends’ news feeds. As of September 2011, the average Facebook user has 130 friends. 130 x 50 = 6500, the potential number of extra people who will see the page. Even if the click-through percentage is small, it’s still publicity, right?
Is it well documented that people are much more likely to trust a company that has been recommended by someone they know. It connotes legitimacy. The issue comes when the market reaches saturation, and people like and follow so many brands that their peers can’t keep up. Marketingvox.com highlights a worthwhile point about social media users slowly becoming immune to online advertising, and this issue may cause the immunity process to speed up.
So what is the real value of asking your friends and colleagues to ‘like’ and ‘follow’ your clients? For now, the jury’s out.