Social Media Marketing Numbers Games and Quality: Digital Tail Comparisons


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Success on the Internet can be measured precisely - allegedly. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter make it even easier: friends, followers and likes are simple and popular metrics. Seemingly.

Social Media Marketing Numbers Games and Quality: Digital Tail Comparisons

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherConsultant and head of the Institute's job pictures Yourweb.

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Tail comparisons in social media - is that necessary?

In my work I have also dealt with a phenomenon that I have been observing for a long time in social networks and that I dislike a little: the constant tail comparisons. Blog charts, click numbers, follower and fan number charts - even Google+ already has them. The problem: You can be driven crazy by something like that - it really doesn't have to be.

Now, in principle, this is not unusual, the desire to compare oneself with others is as old as humanity. Even in the time before social media, the media were about numbers such as the number of copies sold, the number of viewers, visits or unqiue visitors. Because then marketers calculate their so-called return of investment. Or in German: The decision-makers in the Company want to know what comes out of it for what they put in front. And numbers always sound good. But how useful they are is rarely asked.

uniebook-Depression and self-delusion

But private users also look at the numbers - and let themselves be put under pressure by the constant comparisons in social networks. It's like in this “My house, my car, my boat” advertisement: Who has the craziest parties, has the coolest friends, or makes the most adventurous trips? A new clinical picture has already emerged from this in the USA, the Facebook-Depression. It treats people who have fewer friends in social networks than others and who feel inferior as a result.

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This is of course a stupid self-delusion. But through social networks, the short status messages and posted pictures, we get to know what our “friends” are up to at any time and much faster. For example, we see when someone is successful in their job, makes great trips or has had a child. And we want that too or believe we have to do it too. Because people are social beings who constantly compare themselves. That can be positive if we are inspired by the example of others to follow suit. But it can also become a problem if we do so badly in the comparison that we prefer to leave one thing the same.

This is exactly what happens with the Facebook-Depression: Especially people who have little social contact or activity in “real” life feel set back when they see the goings-on of their fellow human beings so closely. Especially since they cannot, as in a personal conversation, use gestures or facial expressions to check whether it is true. And unfortunately, exciting and funny status reports or photos quickly suggest that this person has to be particularly interesting and exciting - even if that's not really true. What helps?

Numbers game in the reality check

Just think logically: For example, the number of followers on Twitter is a quality criterion. If you have a lot of followers, you have to be particularly interesting, funny or informative. From a certain size onwards, Twitter accounts become a sure-fire success that more and more people are following - according to the unreflective motto: 15 followers cannot be wrong. Celebrities like Sascha Lobo or Dieter Nuhr have achieved tens of thousands of followers thanks to this mechanism. But is mass really a quality criterion?

Let's do the reality check. Media educator and social media analyst Thomas Pfeiffer regularly publishes a special kind of Twitter ranking. It does not count the pure number of followers, but only those followers who are also active on Twitter. With surprising results: Apparently, on average, only a third of the people who follow the top Twitterers are even active on Twitter. All the rest are file parts who might drop by on Twitter every now and then to read something or who have signed up at some point but have since lost their interest. They are all still included in the official follower statistics.

How many people are really reading along?

This can significantly distort the statistics: A successful twitterer may have 10 followers, but is actually read by far fewer people than a newer account with only 000 followers. Also at Facebook are there such file parts if z. For example, people “like” a page, but then hide it in their personal news feed: In real life, the news is then read less, even if the statistics still look good.

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A comparison with other media shows how absurd this is: it would be as if a newspaper published the number of people who have ever read an issue of the newspaper instead of the current circulation figures. How many friends or followers a person or company on Twitter, Facebook and Co. is not a quality criterion. Not least because these numbers can be manipulated easily and there are already numerous service providers who earn good money with fake fans or followers.


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