I’ve set up a few different campaigns for clients that had social networking components to it where we built up a targeted following for the client. Coupled with solid content this usually works out really well and allows people to interact with the company and even turn people into advocates for the brand/non-profit/website. The advocates share the news/profile information/or contests and just about anything else the client is doing.
For a few clients after I handed over the reigns to them I would hear back a few months later stating that they had seen a decline in referring traffic from the social network or the interaction wasn’t happening at the same rate. While they were still producing quality, informative, and valuable content they weren’t getting the same results. The reason each time was that they were no longer focusing on growing the account, they were relying completely on the brand advocates to do that.
When I talk about growing the account it isn’t just about going through and adding friends. (That can be one part of the equation.) Participating in forums, commenting on other blogs or groups, and just proactively participating beyond your own account profiles go a long way in bringing in new people. Interacting in your field of expertise with people that have an interest in what you have to say is important. (Versus just pure building numbers, which is kind of pointless unless you have something that has a wide appeal.)
Unless you are in a dominant position with your numbers you need to be continually growing your social media accounts or in reality you are slowly dying. Social media users are a fickle bunch. They get sick of the service, they don’t have time to use the site in the same way as they once did, or they move onto something else, whatever the reason is the numbers you have are going to melt away or are falsely propped with non-active users.
For example lets use YouTube videos and their rankings system. After a certain point some video producers have built such a large fan base that they will continually rank in the top results, in their niche or overall, no matter what the quality or social media push they put behind it. When you get to this position you can generate content and the regeneration of new users will just happen. These producers have enough of an active base to continually grow organically. But this group is probably less than one percent of the active contributors of the site.
A mildly successful YouTube channel even with tens of thousands of subscribers still has to grow their audience aggressively in order to not see their numbers dip. If there is a lull in their effort to grow the channel their organic growth can grind to a halt and you can see views stagnate. One channel that I work with cut their video production down in half (meaning less new videos hitting the charts and less showing up in search options) and their interaction with fans has lessened due to time constraints. The results of this were that the views for the channel have declined by at least 6,000 views per video as the pace of new subscribers has slowed to a trickle. When we began to build again and increased the interaction but not the production we saw an increase in views and the subscriber rate increase.
This has held true on just about any social media site I have worked with. I would even include blogging in this theory. It is important to proactively grow whatever you are working on, you can’t just create content and think that your base is going to promote it and bring new people in. You rather be growing than slowly dying.