Recently, Famecount declared Starbucks the most popular consumer social media brand. In summarizing the study, the Spokane Examiner reported:
The study results are followed up with a quotation from the Famecount founder touting the success of global online ranking in the social media space.
It's not that numbers aren't nice, but they don't really tell the whole story. And they can be misleading in terms of social media measurement. So you have eight million followers. So what? If "popular" is simply a numbers game, we could all employ spammers to get us 20,000 Twitter followers in a month. What do those subscriber numbers really mean? As the awesome Amber Naslund ranted back in January, we need to stop counting subscribers as fans like bottlecaps and start considering real engagement.
Counting fans, followers and subscribers is just the beginning. What interests brands is not sheer numbers but behavior. How are those fans, followers and subscribers acting? Behaviors indicate the true level of engagement, and behaviors are key indicators of influence.
A few behaviors to measure that would indicate the engagement level of those fans, followers and subscribers:
- What are they saying outside of those channels, in their own blogs, Twitter and Flickr streams and Facebook?
- Are their brand mentions positive, negative or neutral, and in what proportion?
- Are they spontaneously recommending the brand to friends?
- Are they making their own user-generated videos?
- Are they forming flash mobs and other social events around the brand?
- Are they attending live events around the brand?
- Are they creating hashtags related to their brand use?
- Are they answering questions in user forums?
- Are they creating fan-based content, such as stories, art and spoofs related to the brand?
- Are they creating fan sites to promote and discuss the brand?
Harley Davidson wins hands down on the most popular brand. I have never seen a single Starucks tattoo on even the most dedicated caffeine junkie. And I doubt a single Starbucks fan would try and kick your teeth in for suggesting Starbucks sucks. How many websites are dedicated to following every single item Starbucks makes? Google has 36.1 million sites for Harley, 28.9 million for Starbucks.
Likewise, I've had a few friends proudly display their Apple tattoos, with special props going to those who sport the original, multicolored Apple logo. Now that indicates more than popularity--that's die-hard brand loyalty.
Numbers are a great start, but they don't tell the whole story. Would you rather have 100,000 Twitter followers, or 500 followers who are super-engaged, die-hard fans? I know my pick.