One of the biggest challenges facing businesses on social media today is growing their audiences. According to a report by The Manifest, building their follower and influencer bases is one of the top challenges facing 24 percent of social media marketers today.
But among the number-dependent social media challenges, one stands out: churning.
In a broad sense, churning refers to the rate of loss of an existing parameter—customers, for example. In social media, churning happens when an existing user stops following you.
One practice in particular generates high churn rates. It’s when a user follows your account just so you can follow them back, and once you have done that, they unfollow you. It’s a painful experience that only young people with “accounts for likes” had to contend with until now.
Today, many businesses become victims of this unsavory practice. And a lot more is getting hurt than just their feelings.
The race for numbers
If you’re thinking that numbers are a vanity metric, I agree. As you’ll see later in the post, that understanding will help you deal with churning and other social media scams.
However, any business with a social media strategy wants to increase the size of its audience. Notice I didn’t say “fans” or “followers?” Unfortunately, the only way to get that is through fans and followers.
Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to build a fan base than to acquire a real audience that listens to you.
The impact on business
For software-as-a-service companies and other businesses relying on social media for revenue and growth, every unfollower is another lost chance to engage with a member of your audience and possibly drive a sale.
“The more users are following us, the more people are seeing our posts, and the higher the chances of our content being shared on social media,” says Nina Bal, award-winning facial aesthetics doctor and CEO of London-based Facial Sculpting. “Even when someone appears to have no need for our company, they could still refer someone who does through any of the various ways.”
Bal draws on her experience using social media to attract clients looking for cosmetic augmentation. For her, social media is more than a platform to showcase her work—it’s the window to show the world what she does and how it’ll make her prospective clients feel good about their bodies. That’s why every follow on her social media pages counts.
How to handle churning
Churning should serve as a signal that something is wrong. One of two answers could be right:
- It’s not you; it’s them: There’s nothing you could’ve done to prevent the unfollowing, and such followers wouldn’t have engaged in any meaningful way with your brand anyway, only inflating your follower count. In this case, you’re better off without them.
- It’s not them; it’s you: Maybe your content isn’t engaging enough because you don’t have a sound social media strategy. You simply didn’t meet their expectations. They unfollow you and don’t care if you keep following them or not.
How should brands deal with this?
- Don’t be quick to follow back: When I asked Dale Gillespie, digital marketing manager of Jennings Motor Group, about his criteria for following users back, he said, “I follow a business account because I’m so interested in their product that I wouldn’t mind receiving updates from them. I don’t necessarily expect them to follow me back. So, as a brand, I just have to act the way I expect my favorite brands to act.” I think most people can relate to that statement. Your true audience members follow you without expecting a follow-back because following you benefits them.
- Use ethical means to acquire followers: In an attempt to add huge numbers of followers to their profiles fast, some brands resort to unethical means of acquiring followers. They may realize the risks of that later. But for most of them, it’s usually too late. Smart business owners use ethical ways to build an audience.
- Develop targeted social media content: Just as you develop your marketing strategy to match your target audience, you need to develop the content on your social media pages to match your ideal follower’s expectations. One way to ensure this is to focus consistently on the topics relevant to your brand—your niche.
The key to reducing churn rate is concentrating on what matters: your audience. Knowing that you’re building an audience with real engagement will help you stop worrying about those who enjoy playing the churn game of constant follow and unfollow.