As we mentioned yesterday, getting the marketing mix right across the different social networks can be a bit of a minefield and, for many, it is still a brave new world out there. However, there is one place that has not changed, be it from getting your message heard when the Town Crier sang out “Oyez, oyez”, through print newspapers, to TV and radio, to websites, to social media.

It really is not about numbers in this game, but for far too long that has been the metric. How many “hits” (Don’t say hits!!) your website has, how many followers on Twitter, the number of friends on Facebook, my Klout score is higher than yours etc.

Far more important is having people engaging with you who fulfil your goals because you fulfil theirs. If you have 2million new followers and yet your sales turnover has only increased 1%, something is wrong.

Understanding the difference between, say, Twitter users and Facebook users is very important, and the stats in the Social Break Up report from Exact Target show that Twitter users are less likely to stop following a brand (41% versus 55% on Facebook or 91% on email). However, on Twitter people expect valuable content, not marketing messages. So, links to interesting posts from your sector are of more interest than another press release about your product or yet another chance to enter your latest competition.

In fact, this highlights one interesting thing about Twitter that people who don’t use it often miss. The common (mis)perception about tweets is that they are all about what someone had for breakfast. However, some of the most avidly followed users of Twitter are those who speak not about themselves at all, but who provide links to valuable content across a sector, industry, subject matter or product set.

The aggregators and curators of content find themselves with a loyal and engaged audience. Whilst some of these are indeed industry magazines/news sites, there are others who are businesses providing their followers exactly what they are looking for – valuable content. Intersperse these messages with a little shameless self-promotion for your own products, and you could be on to a winning mix.

Twitter users, whilst still far below the number of global consumers of other social media platforms, are amongst the most connected online. So, whilst you may find you have fewer Twitter followers than Facebook friends, these are potentially your most lucrative target audience because they know what they like and are “influencers”.

Quite often, reaching these influencers can be far more effective than a scattergun approach of marketing messages across social streams. Your marketing message, once treated to a critique or blog post, and then shared/tweeted out to their friends and followers takes on a more subtle hue. It is less direct and carries the invisible watermark of a Friend’s Recommendation, which is difficult to buy and almost impossible to fake.

Many Twitter users do not bother about Follows or Unfollows. Analytics does take time, and sometimes: what does it actually prove? Short of trying to track down each and every person who has unfollowed you and asking them “Why?”, much of it is guesswork. Instead, the great Twitter people just concentrate on being good at what they are good at, as well as being polite. Sending out #FollowFriday tweets to show that they too have been reading content produced by their followers, a thank you for a Retweet, a Retweet on behalf of a follower – all these little touches mean that a Twitter follower refuses to hit that Unfollow button in a hurry.

Whilst for a minority (20%) brand tweets are too ‘chit chatty’, for others this can make all the difference between untouchable and approachable. It makes it personal, in other words. A follower actually feels there is a human at the other end of the brand. With a sense of humour, compassion, or sharing a link that may be of interest. It does not matter how small (or short!) the tweet is, far too many brands have a stock of corporate type responses which are off-putting in the extreme, especially when there is a problem to be resolved.

So, in summary, stop worrying about numbers. Understand your audience. Craft messages for each 1/4 of your audience and balance the marketing messages with content. Offer deals and follow up so people have some say in what offer you might make next. Get to know your audience. Have you been to their page, wall, website? You expect them to come to yours!

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology