How many followers equal critical mass?
Everyone wants more followers on social media.
At the same time, marketing experts are shouting at the top of their lungs that the number of followers doesn’t matter; it’s all about having the right followers. And this is all accompanied by anxious whispers in the office hallways about who has bought their followers and who hasn’t.
Do your number of followers, fans, and subscribers matter?
Here we go:
Critical Mass in Social Media
Well, the number of followers, fans, and subscribers doesn’t matter — to a degree. You could have 100,000 fake followers on Twitter, and it wouldn’t matter if your statistics tell you that 5,000 saw your last tweet because they were all bots anyway.
Or, you could have 16,000 followers as I do, but I’m not as active there as I once was — which the algorithm doesn’t like. The actual number of followers, fans, and subscribers matters very little.
Too many followers, fans, and subscribers can be problematic if your brand loses momentum. If you get 100 Facebook likes per week on average, it’s better to have 50 fans (200% engagement) than 5,000 (2% engagement).
So, all those marketing experts aren’t wrong per se. But something must be said about simply having too few followers as a business.
Return on Engagement vs Following Size
Suppose a business hires one person to run all its social channels, which costs 2,000€ per week (including taxes, rental fees, content software licensing, etc.). How many followers must this employee engage each week to break even?
There are many ways to attribute value to social media marketing, and the right choice depends on the business.
The most common approach is calculating the alternative cost for the brand’s organic reach. How much would it cost to reach all those people with advertising? This is, in many ways, an outdated (and hated) model, but that’s beside the point for this blog post; the matter is that there are better or worse ways to attribute value to your online marketing efforts — but it’s something that most businesses have to do.
If you have to reach 100,000 people to convert customers to a value of 2,000€ per week, it matters how many fans you have at the beginning of that week.
Critical Mass (of Quality Followers)
A brand’s total average organic reach tends to be stable. Social network algorithms change, but usually not that fast.
Engagement rates fluctuate with content quality and competition, but not that much. Most social follower volumes tend to increase, but not that much. Conversion rates vary with traffic quality and UIX, but usually not much.
Whether or not you start the week with a big enough bulk of social media followers, you can (especially with Facebook Zero) pay for some of your weekly reaches. Still, every cent must be earned back into your business with interest — sooner or later.
This allows us to approximate a specific number of followers you need to break even financially. This number of followers is what is referred to as critical mass.
Assuming that conversion rates and follower reach ratios stay stable, we can approximate how many followers a brand needs to break even.
Conversions needed to hit break-even / the average follower reach ratio = your brand’s critical mass of followers.
How To Calculate Critical Mass in Social Media
Calculating critical mass is straightforward (and not an exact science). For example:
I’ve estimated that my freelance agency, Spin Factory, needs two quality leads every four weeks to sustain the business. To get this from content- and inbound marketing via social media alone, I need to expose my messaging to 1,200 quality followers weekly.
My social reach is about 8%, meaning I need a base of 15,000 social media followers (15,000 followers x 8% penetration = 1,200 exposures).
Hence, 15,000 high-quality social media followers represent the critical mass for Spin Factory.
Approximating your brand’s critical mass in social media is no exact science — and it’s no guarantee. But we must make a much deeper and more business-critical point about a brand’s critical mass in social media. 1Not all social accounts are equally valuable to a business. For me, blog readers and subscribers far outweigh Facebook and Twitter followers. Unfortunately, not all followers are human beings, and … Continue reading
Your Social Media Strategy Before Critical Mass
Almost every brand that starts on social media will lose money. This is simply because their social accounts haven’t yet reached critical mass. This leads us to the following key insights:
PR Resource: Avoid Ghost Followers
How To Avoid Ghost Followers
Inactive and passive followers, ghost followers, will destroy your engagement scores and undermine your social media reach and growth are a few rules of thumb for keeping clear of ghost followers:
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PR Resource: The Follower Contract
The Follower Contract
Many brands must rethink their approach to having followers, fans, and subscribers. Having a brand community is your privilege, not theirs. How can you honour their engagement?
Think of every single follower, fan, and subscriber having this agreement with your brand:
Your New Follower
Read also: The Follower Contract
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|Not all social accounts are equally valuable to a business. For me, blog readers and subscribers far outweigh Facebook and Twitter followers. Unfortunately, not all followers are human beings, and you should beware of ghost followers, i.e. bots, click farm accounts, automated follower software, etc. Too many fake followers will negatively impact your chances of successfully negotiating social media algorithms.|
|Silfwer, J. (2020, April 21). The Content Themes PR Strategy: Focused Birds Gets Worms. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://doctorspin.net/content-themes-pr-strategy/|
|Silfwer, J. (2022, June 30). Why ROI and PR Mix Like Oil and Water. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://doctorspin.net/roi/|
|Silfwer, J. (2019, August 12). How Ghost Followers Destroy Your Social Accounts. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://doctorspin.net/ghost-followers/|
|Silfwer, J. (2022, September 22). “For Content!” Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://doctorspin.net/for-content/|
|Silfwer, J. (2016, May 25). The Follower Contract. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://doctorspin.net/follower-contract/|