Likes, Fans, and Follows: Terminology

If you start your day on Facebook, hit LinkedIn when you reach the office, rely on Twitter updates to keep you refreshed with industry news during the workday, spend a little time dreaming and scheming at Pinterest on your lunch hour, and then relax with Instagram at night before checking in at your favorite watering hole — well, this post is not for you.

This post is for those who don’t really use social media personally, have embraced it for their business in the form of social media management by an outside agency or an internal department, and would like to be able to make intelligent decisions about their progress and ROI.

This site has a lot of useful information on this particular subject:

Social media is far more measurable that legacy media like TV or print magazines. It’s less measurable than, say, temperature, so we have to be realistic. But before we even start to think about identifying stratregy, tactics, and KPIs, we have to be speaking the same language. So here’s a quick guide to how various social media platforms measure influence:

  • Facebook fan pages (business or organization pages) have fans who Like the page.  (Individuals have Friends. If your business page has Friends, you’ve set it up wrong.) Fans and visitors can also Like a specific post, either on your page or on the page of someone who Shares or Comments, and thus may help you show your post to their friends. You can also Boost a post, which means you pay to have the post shown to your fans and their friends, or even a wider audience if you prefer. This can get you lots more Likes, Comments, and Shares, as well as increasing your Reach (all the people who might see your post) and Virality.
  • Twitter accounts have Followers. Anyone can see your tweets unless you protect them (don’t do that), and they might find those tweets by searching either for keywords or for hashtags. Someone who sees your tweet might Favorite it (roughly the equivalent of a Like) or Retweet it (like a Share).  They can also reply to you by using the @ symbol or talk about you either with the @ symbol or with a hashtag. They can even send you a private message, called a Direct Message.
  • LinkedIn has Connections for individual accounts, but people can Follow your company page. They can also Like and Share your posts and Comment. Lest you think that LinkedIn just gave up because all the good verbs were already taken, you can also View, Connect, Endorse and Congratulate people in semi-automatic ways.
  • Pinterest lets you Follow individual Boards (collections of Pins, which are images you add to your Boards). There is no major difference between companies and individuals. People can Like, Pin, or Comment on other people’s pins, or on their own. You can also Send Pins to Pinterest friends, or use the Send to email people you don’t know on Pinterest.
  • Google+ has Circles. You can Follow companies. People can +1 your posts, which is a lot like Liking them, except that it can affect their rankings in Google search results. People can also Share posts, which is the same as Sharing on the other platforms.

Years ago, I used to teach English to foreign students. Rather than trying to learn all the possible greetings in English, I just taught them to recognize the body language that goes with greetings in the U.S., and to listen for either “How…” or “What…” For all greetings that begin with “How…” you can answer, “Fine. And you?” If it starts with “What…” you’re safe with, “Not much. And you?” As long as you have the big smile and the “And you?” you’ve safely lobbed the ball back into their court.

Apply the same kind of strategy here. Don’t get bogged down in whether you have followers or fans or connections liking or sharing or pinning. All these things are metrics for engagement. How can you determine the best metrics to measure? Head back up to the top of the post to find more on that subject.






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