March 12, 2013 9.24 am This story is over 131 months old

Social media is not just about likes and followers

A different metric: Annie Bowden calls for businesses to stop evaluating their social media based on likes and followers and focus on engagement instead.

More and more businesses seem to be embracing social media nowadays. Whether that’s by posting a corporate image in the hope of a retweet, asking fans and followers questions, sticking a QR code onto an advert, or simply inventing a witty hashtag. But how many of us are actually getting it right? Or even know what right is?

New research from the PR Academy shows digital communications as the top skills gap amongst public relations professionals, unsurprising given its presence as a ‘tick box’ for marketing and PR.

Of course, there are plenty of great examples of brands doing a great job – O2’s customer service team, Red Bull’s sponsorship of Felix Baumgartner’s attempt at breaking the sound barrier, and the British Heart Foundation’s ‘Hands Only CPR’ campaign to name but a few – but there remains a reliance on old practices and dated ways of thinking.

All too often we focus our efforts on collecting fans and followers. However, are we even sure what to do after we have gained enough to makes us feel our efforts have been worthwhile? This all comes back to what social media is all about – engagement.

Brands need to remember that social media is about their customers and not about them. Too many social campaigns forget that to be effective they need to provide their fans and followers with something entertaining and useful. The key to effective social media is seeing things from a user’s perspective rather than viewing your channels as an advertising medium.

Social media is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of tool. What suits one brand may be a total flop for another, so it’s important that you identify the best ways of reaching those users to benefit your business. The key is making communication easy and encouraging people to engage with you. Go where they are and give them different ways to interact with your brand.

I believe it’s vital to stop evaluating your social media based on likes, followers and clicks. Instead, businesses should measure interaction, engagement, depth of conversation, word of mouth and potentially any media coverage you receive as a result. This way you will see the value in developing a series of small ideas to keep the conversation going and giving your users a reason to come back.

How does your brand engage with consumers? I’d love to hear about your social campaigns and tactics. You can Tweet me @annie_b1987.

Annie Bowden is a PR Manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing communications agency in Lincoln. Specialising in consumer engagement and social strategy, Annie has previously worked in the communications team for the Wildlife Trusts and at Loughborough College.