Why Social Media Numbers Don't Always Add Up

We live in a World where numbers mean everything. How much money you make, how many cars you have, how many times you've had sex (hey, it comes up), and even how many followers or fans you have.

In 2012, there are still people, regular chaps and businesses alike, that believe the bigger the following, the better. "If we only had 100,000 followers." Or "If we only had 1 Million fans on Facebook." It sounds awesome in theory, but in all actuality, the numbers don't add up.

You see, a new app surfaced which allows you to see how many of your followers are active, inactive, or fakes.

After having a brief conversation with John Morgan over on Twitter in regards to fake or inactive followers, thought I'd run some quick searches through the app and the results were pretty surprising. Wouldn't be transparent if I didn't include my own, so here they are:

Not bad. Instead of running random celebrities and personalities, I focused on the technology niche and picked a few with large followings. And threw in Mitt Romney for good measure since there were claims his camp bought fake Twitter followers recently.

First up was Scott Stratten who had 129,735 followers at the time of this.

No issues there. Scott has done a great job growing a large following and an active one at that. And now this is where we go down the rabbit hole and start to look at huge numbers differently.

Guy Kawasaki, all around social media maven: 1,118,242 followers

Om Malik, founder of GigaOM: 1,308,986 followers

MG Siegler, tech blogger for TechCrunch: 88,717 followers

Evan Williams, Co-Founder of Twitter: 1,514,970 followers

Mitt Romney, running for President: 862,105 followers

Noticing a trend here? By no means do I think it's fair to come out and say any of them have bought fake followers. Without actual proof, it's all heresay. The reality is fake accounts are widespread on Twitter and is only getting worse. It makes sense for them to attach themselves to popular people because, hey, according to the numbers, they're influential.

And that gets us into the percentage of inactive followers. With social networks, users is one thing, but active users is another. Your social profiles are like TV. Some will be tuning in and others will be elsewhere doing something else. While big numbers sound great, there's also a different side to them, as evidenced with these results.

Focus on building a high quality, active audience. Of course some inactive people and even fakes will follow you, but if you focus on quality over quantity, you'll reap far more benefits. And next time you see someone with a massive following, don't automatically assume everything is all butterflies and unicorns. As we've seen, numbers don't mean everything.

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