Don’t think big. Think small.

By Cathy Barlow | October 30, 2013

I recently read an interview with science writer, Heather Doran, and one part of the interview that struck me in particular was her answer to the question of how she measures the success of her blog:

I have never used online metrics to evaluate the success of my blog, or magazine. I feel a better measure of them is the reaction they receive and the creation of an active readership… The aim was never to ‘go viral’.

It struck me because I find when I’m talking to people who are just starting out on social media, they often mention wanting to go viral or trending on Twitter. I have to tell them that is probably not going to happen and that in fact, it’s not really the point of social media anyway. Another thing I often find myself saying is that social media is not about ticking boxes. It is not something you do for the sake of it, but rather using social media involves thinking about what it is you want to get out of it and how you are going to go about achieving those goals.

I spend quite a bit of time looking at blog stats and analytics, at interactions on Twitter and likes on Facebook. I recognise that the numbers are, to a certain extent, a good measure of how well a social media channel is doing. But there reaches a point, when you’re staring at rows of numbers, that you begin to think: Yes, but what does it all mean? If nothing else, looking at numbers is useful because it forces you to question what it is you’re really trying to achieve

It is this question that should be at the heart of any social media effort and the answer, I think, should be: real connections.

I’ve written on here before that social media is about talking, but it is not about replacing in-person conversations. Rather it is another means of having those conversations and perhaps even a step towards meeting in person. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my favourite social media platform by far is Twitter. I’ve tried a lot of different social media, in fact, it’s become a bit of a problem since I seem to sign up for every new platform I come across. But Twitter is the one that has really captured my heart and I think it is because it is the social media channel that most closely replicates real, lived connections. It is the place where I’m most able to have conversations with others – even within the limits of 140 characters. It offers the chance to “meet” people I probably wouldn’t meet otherwise, people living on other parts of the country and across the globe. It also gives me the opportunity to interact with businesses and organisations on a much more human level.

So whether you’re considering setting up a Twitter account or Facebook Page for your business or professional life, or are already using social media, I have a small piece of advice – don’t think big. On the face of it, it might sound like terrible advice, but I want you to forget about the number of Facebook likes you have and instead focus on the connections you make with people – it is these connections that will create real, valuable customers.

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