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Summary:

As the social media industry matures and best practices continue to refine, I’m struck by how too many people tend to get caught up in the numbers — or at least the wrong numbers — and let those numbers dictate how and when they use social media.

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As the social media industry matures and best practices continue to refine, I’m struck by how too many people tend to get caught up in the numbers — or at least the wrong numbers — and let those numbers dictate how and when they use social media. I’m not talking about keeping an eye toward the bottom line, or making sure you are getting a return on your investment in social media tools. I’m talking about companies thinking there is some “magic number” for how many tweets to do in any given day, how many times to post to Facebook a day, or how many blog posts to publish in a week.

While you should create some kind of structure or parameters around the time you spend communicating through social media, and there are some general rules you can consider, you shouldn’t be setting rigid limits. Through the years, I’ve come up with these guidelines. They change from year to year based on the popular network of the moment and how familiar people become with these networks. I suggest that you:

  • Tweet or check Twitter several times a day.
  • Update the status on a Facebook Page at least once a day, check at least several.
  • Blog at least once a week, check comments at least daily.

You should also know your audience because they may have a maximum tolerance. My own parameters for maximum engagement vary depending on service, my audience, and my capacity, etc, but generally I try to:

  • Tweet no more than several times in an hour.
  • Update the status on a Facebook Page no more than several times a day.
  • Blog as much as it makes sense for your business goals, your audience and your capacity.

There seems to be much more of an audience “tolerance level” for more blog posts compared to more Facebook status updates, for example, because blogs serve as useful as repositories of content as well as distribution channels of current information, and because unless someone subscribes to your blog by email, it is far less of a push medium than many social networks, there is much more of a “tolerance level” for more blog posts than more Facebook status updates, for example.

Here are some numbers that you should be thinking about, instead of simply counting how many tweets you put out today:

  1. The increase of engagement in your channels. Some easy ways to gauge engagement include Twittercounter, which can email you weekly stats; the Facebook Pages insights that are emailed to you by Facebook; or by using an application such as Swix Analytics.
  2. The breakdown of your fan base. Analyze where you are getting not just the most fans, but the most growth. Determine what you are doing when you see spikes in the growth of your Twitter followers or Facebook fans. For example, does that spike in follower count happen when you follow more people on Twitter or when you reference other Twitterers? Does it happen when you use Facebook social ads to drive traffic to your page or when you added a Facebook promotional fan box on your blog? Do more of what works if you can.
  3. The strength of your relationships. This is a bit harder to measure, but you need to assess whether you know your customers better because of what they say on your Facebook Page or what they address to you on Twitter or comment on your blog. Are you getting more people responding to you, commenting on what you say, repeating (retweeting,sharing) what you’ve posted? The stronger your relationships, the more influence you have, but having influence should not be your goal. Having strong relationships and earning trust should be.
  4. The volume of feedback. While getting a great deal of feedback requires more resources in order to react and respond to it, more feedback means you are not doing business in a vacuum, and you are opening better and faster lines of communications with your customers through social media. Every piece of feedback you receive, whether good or bad, is an opportunity to connect. Always remember that negative feedback is an opportunity to do something better.
  5. The conversion from fans to customers. How closely are you paying attention to how fans on your Facebook translate into actual sales? I wrote about Swix Marketer previously, which is a tool that can help you monitor clicks, conversions and sales. Many monitoring tools help you listen to what is being said and manage your responses, but how are you putting mechanisms in place that help you correlate activity in social networks with actual increases in sales?

Get out of the mentality of targeting a certain number of tweets of Facebook updates per day. Instead, go with your overall goals, the needs and wants of your audience, and the content and flow of the conversations. Look more deeply into how social media is increasing your authority, building your connections, and streamlining your communications with all of the people who matter most to your business, whoever they may be.

What numbers do you focus on when evaluating your social media efforts?

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Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub. req.):

  1. We always keep an eye on Google analytics, which tell us how many people our Twitter and Facebook accounts are sending to our website. We also check the time they spend on the site and how many pages they view on average, which tells us whether they’re finding our content to be relevant and interesting.

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