When is an audience not an audience?

When we talk about marketing activity, we often talk about our audience as a means of ensuring relevance and effectiveness.  But in social media, it’s a slightly misleading term.  Here’s why….

It’s easy to assume that because a Twitter account has 5, 000 followers, there’s an audience of 5,000. Or that a group (on Facebook or LinkedIn, for example) with 400 members means an audience of 400. But that’s a hopeful, bordering on lazy, view.

Social media essentially means a tide of information and updates coming at us across devices and you only have to look at how you consume this content yourself to know that a good deal of it is ignored, deleted or muted without a second glance.

So how do you measure audience more meaningfully? I’d venture the view that engagement is a critical measurement tool – after all, it’s only when an individual engages on some level that we can truly call them an audience. It’s been said to me recently that engagement is a meaningless term used by social media people but not by a ppc agency – I say it’s the true meaning of audience. Of course, we can’t measure everything, so some assumptions have to be made about the number of people who engage on the quiet – without interacting, responding or sharing. But it’s fair to say that your follower counts are not representative of your active audience.

So here are my rules of thumb:

  • Don’t get hung up on the numbers, because they are not entirely representative
  • And therefore, don’t rest on your laurels because you’ve hit the magic  1, 000, 2, 000 or 10, 000
  • Go back to analytics every time – knowing where, how and when people have taken action is what really counts
  • Think of your follower count as ‘potential audience’ and then look to how you increase the proportion of that figure to become ‘engaged audience’ – that’s where the numbers truly mean something

Now go and get yourselves a standing ovation…

Kate Spiers is a director at Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a pragmatic approach to social media.

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