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Why ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ don’t always mean business growth

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On the day that Twitter will go to market with a value of $2.2 billion, it’s interesting to note the comments of Mary Jo White, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States.

The Financial Times notes that Chair White questioned whether investors could understand a tech company’s size or future prospects on the basis of “unique financial or operational metrics”.

For metrics, read familiar social media terms such as followers, user numbers or even likes.

Her comments may resonate with many businesses.  In a recent new business meeting, a senior Director at a high-tech engineering company asked us what social media could for his business.  He was genuinely interested in the potential; but needed to be convinced that followers and likes could translate into sales and revenue.

I hope we showed that social media activity on behalf of our clients has brought real business benefits. Crucially, however, where these benefits have been gained it is because social media activity was tied to real and demonstrable business goals; not just the accumulation of the “unique operational metrics” that Mary Jo White claims are no guarantee of profits for investors.

Interestingly, Chair White calls for “clear description” from tech companies. Businesses should perhaps ask for the same when it comes to social media.