Social Media is So Much More Than Likes and Followers

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Do you ever feel that social media could be doing more for your small business if you could just figure it out? Do you keep an eye on your competitors’ social media profiles and fear that they know what they’re doing and you don’t?

Stop for a moment and think about how social media has changed our lives in a very short span of time. Five years ago, most people didn’t know much about Facebook and Twitter, and only few businesses were using those platforms for marketing or advertising. Now, just about every website, print ad, billboard, and even some packaging (like cereal boxes) has the Facebook and Twitter badge.

In five years time, social media has become a huge marketing platform, and people really are trying anything and everything to get the most out of it. After all, it’s free—except for the time investment, of course.

Much like SEO, where people tried (and still try) to manipulate the rankings, some people are trying to manipulate social media. Instead of putting in the time and effort to think about their customers and create a social media profile that will naturally attract and engage customers, they are looking for a quick and easy way to build a social media presence. These fast and furious social media marketing tactics usually amount to nothing.

This, I find fascinating: These are actual job descriptions posted on a freelance job posting site, two of literally thousands of similar job postings:

We are looking to add roughly 500-1,000 Facebook Likes and Twitter followers to our clothing brand to increase credibility. We’d like REAL U.S. only followers.

500 Facebook or Twitter votes from genuine accounts—I need at least 500 votes for a contest with different accounts and IP addresses within 5 days.

A few questions come to mind here:

1. Does having hundreds or thousands of likes and followers alone make your business more credible?

A Facebook page that has 10,000 likes but little or no fan engagement isn’t likely to get much benefit from those 10,000 likes. When the majority of those likes are people who don’t really care about the industry or business, the likelihood of engagement is probably pretty low.

Likes and followers do lend credibility to your social media business profiles, but only when paired with fun, inspiring, interesting, motivational content that will reach those who are likely to do business with you. A Facebook page with 10,000 likes, but has a posting or two and no fan engagement, no sharing of content, no discussion going on … who cares?

2. Does having lots of social media fans and followers provide SEO value?

There’s no doubt that social media signals (i.e. activity on social media) has some bearing on search rankings, but there is still a lot of debate about the specifics. It does appear that a business’ activity on Google+ may soon become a factor in search rankings.

Google+ Local pages will be indexed, and it’s very likely that in the future, social signals tracked on Google+ Local pages will be displayed as local annotations in the search results and as featured recommendation positions within Google+ Local internal searches. But, Facebook likes? Twitter followers? I find no evidence to support the theory that more friends and followers alone equals better search rankings.

3. Are people actually selling a service to get likes and followers for their social media clients?

Are people really selling the notion that likes and followers alone pay off in some way? I’d like to hear that sales pitch. Here’s another posting from that freelance job site:

I’m looking for a backup Facebook service provider for my social media business.
These are the packages I offer: 1,000 REAL USA likes, 2,000 REAL USA likes, 3,000 REAL USA likes, 4,000 REAL USA likes, etc.

For anyone who’s been working hard on his/her Facebook page and all the while wondering, “How DO my competitors have so many likes??!” that could be the answer, and this infographic will make you feel better about Twitter. There’s a lot of tomfoolery going on behind the scenes of social media!

I’m in agreement with those who say buying friends on social media is not the path to social media success. Wow, am I going to feel stupid if it turns out that 1,000’s of Real USA Facebook Likes is the holy grail of social media marketing? If I’m wrong about this, please, someone, set me straight.

For now, I’m sticking with my opinion that people who buy and sell Facebook likes are preying on and taking advantage of businesses (mostly small businesses) that don’t know better. OK, so have at it in the comments!

Ellen Gipko

Ellen Gipko

Content Marketing Specialist at HubShout
Ellen Gipko is a content marketing specialist at HubShout, a US based white label SEO reseller, website reseller and web marketing firm with offices in Falls Church, VA (Washington, DC Metro) and Rochester, NY. HubShout’s full service web marketing program includes SEO, PPC, social media, email marketing, website development, customer review service, lead and sales tracking and reporting services.
Ellen Gipko
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  • Jim Zamichieli

    Are the powers to be sleeping ? LIkes and Dislikes need content and discussion on the topics. Since when did it ever count whether you like or dislike, we always want to know more. Yes I do agree that people who are buying and selling Facebook ads are preying on and taking advantage of business that really don’t know better.

  • Roxanne Mapp

    Great article! The timing could not have been better. I was actually beginning to think that something was
    wrong with me personally. After reading this, I realize that in the end I really don’t need thousands of likes
    to know that I am truly good at my craft. I am really happy that you wrote this.

    Thank you and have a great day!

  • Nicki Escudero

    Hi, Ellen! I don’t agree with any company buying social media followers and am happy you wrote about the practice. Great insight throughout the story!

  • Shari Larkin

    Terrific article. The value of great content and engagement are the rulers of a good social media agenda for business. Likes and followers who are unlikely to buy does not make for a good strategy.
    Thanks Ellen for the article.

  • souleye

    social media is only a digital mirror of what marketers have been doing in real life. it’s simply a form of network marketing. if we go back to the source of network marketing, everybody has always known that the success of a small business is not equated to the number of names on the address book. I stopped giving out business cards a long time ago. why? I had never had any business from simply passing out business cards. some people collect them, but very seldom use them. the real work is in how you brand your company and the dialog that you establish using any channel to be top of mind when they need your services.

  • Kristin

    As social media consultant I have been trying to explain this to companies. Some clients say well we don’t want to start blank. Personally, it is better to start blank that have 10,000 fake fans that will drop-off that don’t engage, that don’t strengthen the brand, and in the end you hurt your own business opportunities because you don’t have real stats to show. Buying fans is the WORST thing you can do to your business especially in regards to branding. Also it is a very unethical approach to marketing as is buying reviews. I don’t offer any of my clients fan seedings that can get your page banned and removed. The same is happening with Pinterest and Twitter as well. Who really wants to be spammed by provocative profiles anyways?

  • Jeremy

    The problem with this is that this has existed for years. Not only paid services, but also through click jacking, page locking, and other such “less then for forthright” methods however at the same time people would not employ these techniques if they didn’t work. Social media is much like the early stages of SEO.

  • Sebastian Kuehn

    Really good article Ellen. Seems like it is still more important for some companies to brag with followers and likes than actually making business. Metrics like conversion rates, shares or downloads indicate success of a brand; not fake followers!

    • Chris Kostin

      Totally agree with you Sebastian. Rather than having 1000 of face likes and fans, i would like to receive 100 or even 10 more conversions.

      Every word you have written above is true Ellen still you could fine those kind of postings on any freelancer site or forum where people would be asking for providing 1000 real fans/followers and users providing such services that even in a time period of 7 days only.

      Social media marketing really asks for a lot of patience, interesting content and yes useful products/service.

  • Chase

    I was listening to This Week in Tech (TWIT) the other day and Leo was talking about buying likes and twitter followers. He mentioned that some TV personalities, such as hosts, are now required to have a least some sort of following going for them. Even if this means “padding” the numbers by buying some followers, I think it helps them get their foot in the door to where they want to be. I think it’s shady, but you gotta do what you gotta do, I suppose.

  • Gary @ Solavei

    I do agree that buying those do not have the effects you mentioned. However, I disagree that they cannot be effective and useful for some people. The fact is people do not want to follow people who have little to no followers. It doesn’t matter how great your tweets are. So for a new business, blog or twitter account it can be useful. It gives you that extra something you need in order to be able to get others to want to follow you in return. It is basically a boost to get you started off on the right foot. Once you have many followers though it is completely worthless. Interaction is the most important thing without a doubt. However, if no one wants to follow you then you will really never get any interaction.

  • Nicola

    Great article Ellen!

  • Lenny Dern

    Thanks Ellen for writing about this. This is really an issue nowadays with all of the famous people, including politicians like Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama having a large percentage of fake followers and are literally bragging about how “big” the number is.

    I just don’t think that it’s right to abuse social media in this way, because, as the headline of your post suggests, social media really is so much more than likes and followers.

  • Social Media SEO

    I feel Likes should be justified as to why … not just a random click on the LIKE button. True , social media is but one cannot really fool people for long…. it’s the in thing, perhaps now but sooner will be penalized perhaps by the rise of yet another scrutinizing algorithm… who knows!

  • Renee

    Thanks for underscoring the need to focus on more than just getting as many likes and followers as possible! A successful social media campaign needs to engage your community on a consistent basis. And that community needs to be built upon real followers who are interested in your industry and business.

  • Leonardo Gallina

    Hi Ellen,

    Totally agree with you! I’ve just wrote a few hours ago about this topic in a Spanish forum, so reading your article today was very conforting, so I shared it. Thank you!

    Honestly, I have to admit that i’ve used (never buyed) this kind of service in my “beginnings” to make some test (SEO is somehow about continous testing/error/learn right??) on my own blog….but…never crossed my mind the idea to offer this to a client o.O.

    The real truth, like you said….is that the only ones who’s benefits from this are those who sell this services.

    PS: Don’t blame me for my poor English grammar skills : ), but I wanted to thank you for your article!

  • Peter Bressinck

    Some companies really need people like us, down to earth, smart marketing guys to tell them the complete story.
    10 years ago it was all about getting a lot of visitors on your site, even if they didn’t convert.
    I know marketing directors who get a bonus on the amount of visitors or the amount of e-mail opt-ins they get. I see the same thing happening with facebook likes. If your visitors or likes or readers in the end don’t become customers or brand advocates what’s the point in having them. So with social media it’s just the same as with other media. if you don’t give something in return for becoming a fan or a follower (can be content, but mostly it needs some promo or exclusive campaign)no fan will have value. I also think a lot of companies use facebook or twitter as a cheap alternative to their company newsletter. It’s faster to spread content.

  • Verbuzz

    Hi Ellen, brilliant article! You have just mirrored my thoughts on this. When I was looking at freelance postings yesterday, I was appalled by the nature of posts (Need 10,000 likes on Facebook from people in Europe and 50K+ followers on Twitter in 30 days). Very strange, that there was no mention of engagement with the community or monitoring of channels in the posts! There were lots of bids confirming that it could be done in 2 weeks!

    For a moment, I could feel my head spinning, thinking about the pace people are going on and ways to achieve them! To my surprise, I found many companies that sell Facebook fans at different price ranges and claim that they achieve such high numbers by using White Hat SEO techniques. I am a strong believer of social media and hope winner here should just not decided by the numbers game!

  • Darren Healy

    Buying fans and followers will never be a practice that takes off (I hope not anyway). I honestly can’t understand how people think it is useful nor why companies spring up offering such services. The real point of social media is about getting social with real people. Earn their attention. Don’t buy it. That’s where the ROI comes from.

    It’s an age old marketing ethos; delight your customers and more will come, why? Because they will peer recommend. So it’s up to us marketers to start developing content AND furthermore customer service + other initiatives across the whole company; not just saying you want to/do on your company social media platforms.

    I went on a little bit there didn’t I. If anyone wishes to talk further on the subject please get in touch.

  • Ally, @DesignSpike

    Most excellent and well said. Likes will only get you so far….and purchased likes, well, I find that demeaning. Organizations that dally in this type of “SEO” (if you will) sully the stream for the rest of us.

  • Jennifer, @mysitenowllc

    Thank you for this article, Ellen! Many of my clients are indeed small businesses and acquiring a Facebook and Twitter fan base seems like a daunting task. I’m very relentless in steering them away from buying fans, buying links, etc. but taking the easy way out can be attractive despite my arguments. I have shared this article with them in hopes that they will make smart seo and social media marketing decisions. Great read!

  • Tom Andrews

    Likes and followers best gained naturally, direct referrals to site what ultimately all about.

    From my own client base, those sites with high level of natural Twitter + Facebook activity perfrom better than those with very little activity.

  • Amy Cunningham

    Hi Ellen,
    Excellent article – I am looking forward to sharing this with my clients. Indeed, some businesses still base the success of their social media page on the number of ‘likes’ or ‘followers’, but I encourage quality over quantity (as I’m sure most Social Media Managers do).
    Thanks for adding weight to this argument!

  • Rob Schneider

    I don’t know about others, but when someone who has 10,000+ followers starts following me on Twitter, I don’t follow back. For one thing, I wonder why they bothered to start following me. Are they really interested in my Tweets? Of course not. They’re mining for followers.

    I miss the old days, before the internet became a marketing tool.

  • David McGarry

    Buying Likes reminds me of the days I spent in the fitness industry where people always wanted to take a pill to lose weight. The problem that most people have is they want it now and are unwilling to put the time and sacrifice in to build something meaningful. Social media can work but you need to build a raving tribe that loves you and your product or service.

  • Norm

    This may have already been discussed, but is there a difference between Facebook page likes, and likes of your website content?

  • Danic

    Some people are forgetting about quality and over 85% of their “fans” are just bots or fake accounts. QUALITY fans are what good sites with QUALITY content are going to get for free and no amount of money people spend on freelancing sites will get them that type of loyal follower base.

  • jaisonjohn

    Its not buying likes and followers, but building profile with genuine users that really helps you to get more conversions and posting the updates on regular basis would help you to have more interaction with the customer.

  • Archetype

    It’s so tricky to get that balance of likes and user engagement – I think a vast majority of us have all tried! But essentially, nothing whole comes without a little hard work and elbow grease. I think many give up before they even start to get anywhere – hence the buying and selling going on. Great article… and like many others, you’ve set my mind at ease 🙂