Do the numbers really matter?

Those of you running a small business with limited time available, will probably find yourselves wondering about social media at some point. Now your minds may turn immediately to Facebook, after all it is the largest social network with 1.59 billion monthly active users, but does that mean it is the right one for you?

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

First of all, let’s examine those numbers. 1.59 billion is an awful lot isn’t it? Facebook regularly give updates on those figures, eager to impress upon the world at how well they are doing. Other social networks periodically release figures as well and are often criticised if they don’t give updates often enough.

There are problems with all of the figures released by all of the social networks.

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There is no third party verification of the figures coming from the any of the social networks, which raises questions of accuracy. Are they counting brand pages? What about people with multiple accounts? Are spam bots and fake profiles taken into account?

There is no explanation as to what constitutes an active user. To give an example using YouTube and Facebook video views, YouTube only count a view if someone has watched a video for 30 seconds, whereas Facebook count it as a view after only 3 seconds. Does an active user on social media simply have to log in without reading or interacting with anything, or do they need to comment, reply and create their own posts to be considered active?

Demographics are extremely important as well. How many people in your geographic region actually use a particular site? How many of them are your target audience?

What visitors do not get counted towards these numbers we see? For instance, Twitter and Google+ both allow you to make public posts which are visible to anyone, whether they are logged in or not. A single post from an active user may have many millions of views and interactions outside of the network it was posted to, regardless of the number of followers.

So how do you unpick the mess to find the right social network for you? The answer is simple. All you have to do is try them out and see. Then you can make your own mind up. Whatever network you choose, remember it only takes one valuable connection to make it worth your time.