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What Are Real Followers Worth to You?
By: E. V. Perkins Jr.
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Fake followers and likes have received a lot of attention lately. "Facebook is weeding out fake likes...," "33% of the @Twitter account followers are fake...," and so on. Whether your fake followers came from an automated spambot, were purchased from a third party, or were set up by a summer intern, it's wrong. It cheapens the brand, breaks trust, and wastes resources. A lot of time, effort, and money go into to social media marketing. Having it wasted on people who don't exist has to make you feel some type of way. However, this article is not about fake or fraudulent social media users. Its about the real ones. Who are they and how much more valuable they are than the fake ones.
Forrester Research executives Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff categorized social media users in their book, Groundswell. The Social Technographics Ladder ranks six user types and their relationship with content: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives. Many of us fall into one or more of these categories at any given time.
  • Creators create content. They publish blogs, build their own websites, upload videos, etc. When a brand launches a contest that involves creating an original video or photo, the Creators respond.
  • Critics rate and comment on content. They live on Facebook walls and comment sections. They're a gold mine for consumer research. If your brand is doing something wrong, they'll tell you. Can't decide which new logo to use? Ask the Critics.
  • Collectors aggregate or organize content. They're not just organizing it for themselves. They're sharing with others
  • Joiners sign up for social network accounts. They maintain a profile on one or multiple sites. Yes, some of these are the fakes.
  • Spectators watch. They read blogs or watch YouTube videos, but won't share or comment.
  • Inactives don't do anything.

Creators, Critics, and Collectors engage content in one way or another; therefore, they are the most valuable and real followers. Joiners and Spectators also have value, particularly in terms of reach and impressions. PC Magazine published the "Value of Social Following" infographic in March 2012. It estimated the dollar values of various activities on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook shares are worth $14, likes are $8, Tweets are $5, and Twitter followers are valued at $2. How much are other activities worth? How valuable is user-created content that generates thousands of shares? What about consumer insights gleaned from comments on Facebook brand pages?

What is social media worth to you?

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About the Author
E. V. Perkins Jr. is a marketing and new media specialist in the Milwaukee-area. Learn more about him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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