Followers – the fool's metric?

Before social media, customers would judge a business’s credibility on several criteria.

Slow down – think before you click
Slow down – Don’t be in a hurry to click the ‘like’ button

Personal recommendations would be the best way of knowing a company was worth buying from; Testimonials from strangers, such as reviews, might also work well, and good old-fashioned PR would be another way to convince people you were a good bet.
Then social media came along and the landscape has changed somewhat. The old-school ways of verifying credibility still work, but a new metric has appeared often creating a false impression.
Followers.
To be accurate, Facebook has ‘Likes’, Twitter has  ‘Followers’, but the purpose is the same, both of these are numbers which customers are confusing for ‘recommendation’ And of course all the other networks use this same measure.
Coca-Cola has 87 million likes on Facebook and Pepsi has 32 (million), but does that mean Coke is better than its rival? No, it means Coke has got more likes and nothing else.
But the number of followers or likes do not tell the full story, In fact they don’t tell any story. That’s for the content. Did you read any of it? Did it do anything for you?
Pepsi, as well as arguably brewing the better cola, has got far better content on its Facebook page.
Likes are no measure of quality. Likes can be bought, legally and illegally, and they can be generated using banal content and worthless competitions.
[Tweet “Likes can be bought, legally and illegally, and can be generated even with banal content.”]
For some smaller companies, collecting ‘likes’ has become overpowering, but it can be destructive. The more non-genuine likes a page has, the less interaction it will get, and that will have a knock-on effect. I’ve seen businesses asking for likes, but a like which has not been genuinely received is not likely to produce any engagement or interaction.
People often judge the worthiness of pages by the amount of likes it has. I know this because I’ve been told it on several occasions when I’ve asked clients “what made you follow ‘x’ brand”.

What if..?

Just imagine in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest et al took away the follower count. Do we really need to know how many followers a page has? What does it really tell us. That a page is ‘popular’. Does that mean we should all follow Coca-Cola because it’s a swig away from a billion likes.
Let’s play a little game. Ignore the follower count and look at the page content. Is it entertaining, is it useful. Is it relevant. Because if it isn’t, you sure aren’t going to be interacting with it and the page will slowly disappear from your feed anyway.
[Tweet “Ignore the follower count and look at the content. Is it entertaining? Is it relevant?”]
So next time you go to click ‘like’ ask yourself why you are following/liking. Look at the content and decide if it enriches your life or business. If it doesn’t, save your click for someone else.