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The Social Media Numbers Game. Who's Winning?

I was talking to an app developer yesterday and he asked me what I thought of point systems. “It’s naive to think that points don’t matter,” was my reply. Sure, social media is about connecting. It’s about people. It’s about relationships. But no matter how I slice it, the numbers matter. What numbers? C’mon… the Twitter followers, the Facebook friends, the LinkedIn connections, the Klout score… yes, the numbers. Your score. In the social media game.

Sometimes, it totally feels like that. We’ve all bought into the rules that will move our piece along to the next square. Consciously or unconsciously, we gauge our performance by our progress along the board, collecting followers and in the process, supposedly earning influence and trust. We can’t really help it. I think that we humans must be hard wired to advance towards a carrot, once one is dangled in front of us. Or maybe we’re trained from early childhood… with gold stars, check marks, and A’s, B’s and C’s. Whatever it is… as soon as there is a scoring system, the game begins. Someone once pointed out LinkedIn as an example — you know, the progress bar along the right that tells you your profile is 35% complete? I just couldn’t rest until that thing was at 100%. Was that just me?!

Admit it, you check how many views/comments/likes/shares your posts get and which of your tweets get the most retweets. And admit it, those numbers affect your choices — you’ll be more likely to post about a topic that spurs discussion and engagement than one that does not.

For those of us social media consultants, the numbers carry even more weight. Why? Because all those brand managers and business owners have to justify their social media budgets and in the Wild West of social, these numbers are metrics they can use to do so.

But let me ask you this… how do the numbers play out? How do you measure your success? Is there a direct correlation between your numbers and your clients’ bottom line and (more importantly!) your own bottom line? At the end of the day (or the game), who wins?

photo credit: stock xchng

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