Is Social Media Just a Popularity Contest?

Popularity is a funny thing online. You can reach millions of people with a couple clicks of a mouse but never actually meet them in person. We often get tied to metrics like web traffic or followers on Twitter and Facebook but aren’t the true signs of popularity metrics that bring an ROI – like, uh, sales?

This disconnect between popularity and sales, clouds the judgment of too many marketing teams, especially when virtually everything can be gamed. It’s too common to see businesses buying their way to more Facebook and Twitter followers but what’s the use of having them if they don’t want what you have to offer?

You can pay people to show up at your birthday party but don’t expect them to bring you a gift.

It’s a sad and lonely analogy but a fitting one nonetheless. All fruitful relationships are earned, not bribed and you will be forced to learn this lesson again when developing an effective social media strategy for your business.

Popular Needs to Be Profitable

There is the type of social media that makes friends and there is the kind of social media that makes money. Too many businesses are unknowingly opting for the route that makes friends and getting frustrated while they watch “likes” go up and sales stay neutral.

Does that mean popularity has no pull on social media?

Well it seems that we might be naturally inclined to go with the crowd. Wikipedia calls social proof a “psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”

I’ve nicknamed this the “Amazon Effect” after learning how Amazon realized at some point that it was the customer reviews that were selling products and not the manufacturer’s write up or their expensive marketing copy. It seems like common sense now but at the time it was arbitrary to suggest actually letting customers write their – gasp – true thoughts and opinions about products.

You Need to Be Vulnerable

Your customers want you to be authentic with them and show that you can be vulnerable. They need to know that you know they have the power and that you care about them and their business.

These are foreign concepts from the past several decades of advertising and marketing. Even if you tried to appeal to your customer base as an authentic brand prior to social media it would still only be addressing customers as a whole, not as individuals. 

“When people laugh at Mickey Mouse, it’s because he’s so human; and that is the secret of his popularity.”  – Walt Disney

Relationships are built one experience at a time and as daunting as that might seem, we all know word of mouth is the best kind of marketing and now it has a way to travel faster and farther with social media. They used to say angry customers would tell ten people but a happy customer might tell only tell one, if you’re lucky. Despite the fact those numbers are clearly made up, it’s safe to argue that social media allows those positive experiences to get much more mileage as they are being seen by other people online.

Customer Service is a Popularity Contest

When it comes down to it, leaving the impression of superior customer service with your clients is absolutely a popularity contest. If you give poor customer service and leave people unsatisfied, they aren’t going to like you or buy your products or services any more – which means you will fail in business.

Fortunately, this contest has the odds in your favour because you control how you service your customers. The philosophy for success is the same with customer service as it is for social media: make every experience count. It’s as simple as taking any opportunity to show people that you remembered them.

I always end up printing more business cards every year around my birthday because the company that does my printing always sends me a card. There’s a short handwritten note with my name and it’s signed by the five people in their small office. It gets me every time and I make conversation at my birthday party by telling people how awesome this company is.

Your number one goal should be to constantly make your customers feel special and happy about giving you their money. If you succeed at that, you will have found the Holy Grail of business growth. 

By Melonie Dodaro

Melonie Dodaro, founder of Top Dog Social Media has been dubbed by the media as Canada’s #1 LinkedIn expert and social media strategist. Linkedin Corporation has sought out Melonie as an expert to provide training to their premium members. To learn more about Melonie visit