When it comes to social media, numbers are powerful. Collectively, they inform and guide us. Individually, like all things, some matter more than others. The question is, which numbers matters most?

Consider an awkward middle-school student, insecure and yearning for validation. Should he (A) conform to the group and focus on getting as many people as possible to think he’s cool or (B) be himself and foster close, meaningful relationships? Of course, we tell him that option B is best! One meaningful relationship is worth more than ten shallow ones, we insist. Be yourself and you’ll attract crowds.

 When executing social media strategy, most of us are awkward middle-school students, caught up on the obvious – Likes and Reach. “Am I popular?.” “Do people see me?” But like superficial individuals, these numbers can be artificial, manufactured. What you really want to ask is, “Do people CARE?”

“Care” is not abstract. Your engagement numbers reflect how deeply others care about you and your brand. When engagement increases, reach and likes will follow. Without engagement, both will disappear. And that’s why it’s essential for you to focus your efforts, first and foremost, on engagement.

So what should you focus on? Here’s some guidance based on many years of growing social media audiences.

Quality over quantity

Don’t create more content; create better content that is true to you. Better content provides actual, unique value to your audience. Sometimes, actually posting less may cause your numbers to increase; we’ve seen this firsthand. Again, QUALITY trumps QUANTITY, always.

Create value

Valuable content is unique and exclusive to you. It cannot be found anywhere else, because it comes directly from the heart of your brand. One of our clients dramatically increased their Facebook engagement simply by posting more candid, behind-the-scenes shots of the team. This type of content can’t be found anywhere else on the entire internet, and that’s what makes it so great.

Create a sense of belonging

Original content with a heartfelt call to action makes people feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves. Don’t be afraid to include your audience in your successes and setbacks. Show them how much you appreciate them, and they will show you how much they appreciate you.

Test and refine

Measure and track the performance of individual posts. What excites people? What causes them to act? Analyze this data overtime to understand what you can offer that is of most value to your audience. One of our nutrition focused clients noticed that productivity related posts performed particularly well on Twitter. As a result, they started to share more productivity related posts – and saw great improvement.

Remember, numbers are powerful, but they are not omnipotent. Social media, like life, has it’s ups and downs. Watch the day to day to win the months and years, but do not get discouraged by short-term negative trends. Keep the long term in mind and don’t forget that you are still learning and growing! At the end of the day, social media is simply about meaningful relationships and, like the real-world, meaningful relationships take time.

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