Should I still be counting fans and followers?
There are a bunch of questions that we get asked often, sometimes a little too often, such as; “Should I still count my fans and followers?”, “What was my fan growth last month?”, “Why aren’t my fans and followers increasing like they used to?”. We believe that these are a result of the underlying perception that fans represent a measure of success on social media.
This has been perhaps the most debated topic in the world of social media since brands started using it to talk to their customers. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question, because there are many variables that determine whether a fan/follower has a value and what that value is. In order to understand this, we must think of it within several contexts.
1. What channel are we talking about?
The original value of fans/followers has always been reach. Back in the day (a bit before 2012) if you had 1000 fans and posted anything on your page, all 1000 saw it in a simple and chronological newsfeed on Facebook. That was free reach like brands have never seen before. We all know those days are long gone. Facebook has reportedly had less than 2% organic reach for the last 4 years because it has fully matured as a purely paid media channel and is being utilised as such. If $40b a year in ad revenue isn’t a testament to their growth and success as a media channel, we don’t know what is.
On the other hand, channels like Instagram still offer a good deal of organic (or unpaid) reach to their users. Brands with a sizeable community are continuing to see excellent exposure and engagement from their followers at no media cost. However, it is worth mentioning that organic reach on Instagram is also in decline, just not yet to the same extent as Facebook.
In short, when you take a perspective based on reach, it is evident that followers are not overly valuable on the Facebook platform but continue to retain value across Instagram and other channels.
2. Fans/Followers are still social currency
Since the inception of social media, fans and followers have been considered the social currency that determines the value, clout and credibility of an account. Potential customers will visit your business page and make an involuntary judgement about how influential or important your brand is based on how many people follow or like it. It’s the same idea with social influencers, particularly on Instagram. No one wants to work with an influencer with 200 followers. They’re just not influential enough.
In that sense, there is clear value to keeping your follower numbers up. This will give the impression of credibility and value to people that you’re reaching on Facebook and Instagram for the first time, and encourage them to follow you.
There are, however, a few factors that may cause a slow follower growth, such as:
- People’s behaviour. Patterns of behaviour on social media evolve over time. It used to be about who you liked and followed, whereas now it’s more about what content you like (even if it comes from a source you don’t follow or have never heard of before). People, especially on Facebook, are a lot more inclined to engage with content as it comes rather than committing to a page/brand.
- Your paid reach. Media spend determines how many people outside of your fan/follower base come across your content – reaching more new people means more opportunity for your brand to be discovered and followed.
- The quality of your content. This is particularly relevant on visually centric channels like Instagram – making an impression with high quality, eye-catching content is a crucial part of convincing people to follow your brand.
In a nutshell, fans and followers cannot be considered a valuable or reliable measure of success on social. They’re certainly something worth keeping an eye on, especially on Instagram, for both reach and credibility purposes. The key watch-out is not to let the number of fans and followers distract you from your core objectives of your social presence, whether that is awareness, engagement, acquisition, or anything else that is fundamentally more valuable for your business than mere numbers on a board.