Unlike some social media “experts”, I don’t subscribe to the idea that number of likes or followers is a good metric to benchmark the success of social media activities. Aside from the fact these don’t fit in with marketing key performance indicators (KPIs), the numbers can be both misleading and manipulated.

Building a follower base as part of a B2B electronics marketing communications campaign can be a daunting task, but the need for followers is obvious: in order for your message to be heard on social media you need followers, otherwise you’ll just be shouting into the void. However, what many marketers fail to realise is that having too many fake or irrelevant followers can also prevent your messages from being heard.

In the below video, Veritasium discuss the negative impact on engagement levels caused by fake likes.

At the moment it’s only Facebook that has openly admitted filtering posts with lower engagement levels, but it can’t be long before other social networks adopt the same tactics.

Social media is evolving and diversifying rapidly, and the choice of networks is increasing. As competition increases, social networks need to ensure engagement remains high amongst existing users or risk them moving to a rival. Different tactics have been employed over the years, including the ability for users to apply filters to their news feeds so they only see the content from the people and companies they want to hear from. The problem is that such filtering systems can be difficult and time-consuming to set up, and so many users simply haven’t bothered. Therefore , the networks are aiming to implement the screening process programmatically: those posts that generate the lowest levels of engagement get quashed by filtering algorithms.

Marketers need to adopt a strategy which ensures the followers they gain are targeted, relevant, and more likely to engage with posted content. This can be done organically – through links on websites, emails, and other digital media – but it can be a slow process. We recommend this work is supplemented by a targeted follower strategy.

For B2B electronics marketing, we recommend a follower strategy of just a few simple steps:

  1. Use your mailing lists to determine whether  any of your existing customers or prospects are using a particular network
  2. Analyse followers of your competitors and cherry pick the most desirable followers (those with a high social authority)
  3. Search the biographies of user profiles to try to find a match

Whilst this process can be quite time-consuming , you’ll end up a highly targeted list of followers, relevant to your industry, and receptive to your messages.

It’s understandable why marketers have succumbed to the lure of fake followers in the past: old-school e-marketing tactics of building a huge distribution list are difficult to break, and pressure from the board to produce results comparable to key competitors (who have probably also been growing their accounts through fake followers) are difficult to resist, but it’s a practice I can’t advocate. As we’ve seen, it can not only reduce the reach and impact of your marketing activities, but the effects can be very difficult to undo.

In such instances where pressure is being applied to generate large numbers of followers because a key competitor is doing so, I suggest you fight back. Point out that lower numbers of quality followers produce higher engagement levels, and better results. Then perform an analysis of the competitors followers, just to see how legit these are.

The below is an analysis of the Twitter account of another technical agency. We’d noticed that their number of Twitter followers had suddenly grown over just a few weeks, despite the company having a relatively low Twitter presence for several years.



We thought the huge spike in growth compared to number of Tweets was unusual, so analysed the profile biographies of their followers, and created a keyword cloud which highlights the most popular words used:

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 15.21.48

“Follow” and “back” are the most popular words. A quick scan of Twitter shows that #followback is a network of Twitter users obsessively following each other, with the goal being to gain the highest number of followers.

Compare this to Publitek’s keyword cloud on its Twitter account:

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 15.26.18

Just to prove our theory, we then manually checked out the agency’s followers on Twitter. Here’s a sample of the raft of irrelevant followers that contributed the sudden boost in numbers.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 15.30.52

If your agency plays similar games and is also undertaking social media for you, please let us know, and we’ll do what we can to repair any damage they may have caused your brand. If you’d like to know how to check out your agency’s keyword cloud, or your own, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to show you.