Followers Don’t Equal Influence or Support

There must be something in the water these days. The number of times I have had someone say to me that they aren’t really worried about making a sale or getting promoted because they “have a huge following on social media,” is driving me bananas.

I’m not sure when social media followers earned such a high ranking of influence in our society, but let me clear something up for you – followers do not equal influence or support. This is especially true when you are working in a traditional job.

Obviously your social media friends, followers or hoards (you know those requests you approve because the numbers count!), can play a role in your overall career, but they are not worth much at face value alone. Since their value is vastly different in a traditional job versus any type of business you start, I’m going to break their value down separately.

Social Media Peeps in Traditional Jobs

It seems ludicrous to think that social media followers can influence a promotion or new job… and for the most part, you’re right. The number of friends you have in any one outlet, is not going to be an active influencer in your overall success. I hate to break that news to you… well, honestly, my old-self can’t believe I have to. But I digress…

Your promotion-ability within a company, is mostly driven by your capabilities, delivery and likeability at work. Being able to put together and showcase the hard and soft skills. Getting the right influencers on your side within the company will always pay off more than having outside people talking about your awesome.

The importance of having a “tribe” increases when you are seeking a position. And even then,the value of followers and online influence or clout, is more about your network and possibilities there, than your followers influencing companies to hire you.

Bottom Line: Just because you’re a big thing online or on social media, does not mean much to a traditional job prospect/outlet.

In fact, depending on the company and position, it could be detrimental to your chances of being the chosen candidate. I’m not saying that you should get offline – not at all. But you should be careful about how and what you do on social media. Or, if you’re careless, just be sure to put the privacy walls up and in place so you can set it and forget it.

The most effective ways for you to leverage social media when you’re a job hunter or in a traditional job is as follows:

Be on LinkedIn

This is the one social media outlet that having more connections can pay off for you during a job search and when exploring next-level opportunities. Your ability to follow-up with and connect with relevant people will get you the biggest bang for your buck online.

Have a personal website

Get your name as a url and showcase who you are and what value you can add to a company, online. It doesn’t need to be complicated. You don’t need to spend money on getting a graphic designer or anything fancy. But think of your web-presence and an online/interactive resume.

Showcase your talent, update it, make sure it’s user friendly, and allow people to view your resume and connect with you. Your website will likely not be the first thing potential hiring managers and companies will see, but it will add value to the conversation and make you stand out from other candidates. Just be sure that it improves the conversation and is relevant for the types of roles you are seeking. (If you must have a personal blog, do it somewhere else).

Follow the Twitter accounts for companies you want to work at

I’m still not sure how effective tweeting for jobs is, in general, but I do know that most companies will tweet out new positions when they become available. It’s great to follow the job-specific accounts for companies that match your “dream” criteria. Here’s the thing though – interacting with them won’t add much value to your candidacy (in most cases). In other words, the people responding to your tweets will have zero influence in your job candidacy… so save twitter for other things. One big exception – if you are applying for a social media position or at a social media company.

Social Media Peeps as Solopreneurs

Now we’re getting down the fun part… the part where social media seems to have a more direct connection with converting sales. Ah, got your attention have I?

Myth: The number of followers you have is directly related to the number of sales you will make. This is FALSE, so very very false.

It sounds like it will make sense – the more people who like what you’re saying enough to follow you, will automatically be your fan base and so on. After working with many business owners on the back-end, this is absolutely not the case.

Social media followers have a significant role in being a business owner – they provide social proof, give you a community or tribe of people, can help you land a publishing deal (if your following is significant enough), and so on.

But just because people like you onlie does not mean that people will hand over money to you.  

Number of followers isn’t important in the equation of success. It’s a tool – but it is not the most important one to get paid.

1,000 True fans are worth more than 100,000 followers.

Don’t believe me, here are some awesome examples from a few people you know:

  • Paul Angone has 2,700 facebook fans on his business page. Yet he still had a best-selling book on his first try!
  • Not to mention Jenny Blake’s success with her first book, Life After College – I have no idea how many followers she had at the time, but it was fewer than she has now and it was still a huge success!
  • And for me, I was able to sell books (still selling!) and a course with fewer than ahem, 750 followers (and really, I may have had 100 facebook fans at the time).

My point is, stop focusing on the NUMBER of people who make up your following. They are NOT going to be the ones who will buy things from you – they like you well enough, they enjoy the stuff you provide them with, but when it comes to opening their wallets, it’s not an easy sell.

Instead, focus on building fans and engagement… and most importantly, build your email list. The people who invite you and your messages into your inbox, are more connected with you – they are likely more engaged. They are the people who are closer to a sale.

And for the love of Nancy, stop telling me and every single business coach out there that you have a following so you’re not at all concerned about making money. That’s just insane – and it’s really annoying to the people who work very, very hard to make each and every sale. Oh, and if you stop this train of thought now, you won’t be in shock when you do have to make your first sale. :)

This post originally ran on LifeAfterCollege.org.