Do More Followers Really Equal More Value?

We all possess a unique egoistic appetite for popularity, recognition and appreciation. Social media has pushed this desire to a point where – for some – our original values and intended focus has been skewed. A perfect example is the recent uncovering of professionals buying followers on Twitter. This decision only serves one purpose: influencing perception. Unfortunately, a follower count—even if 83% are fake—has a gravitational affect on others. People begin to perceive that person or brand as a thought leader, someone worth following because they add value, and deserve admiration and digital prestige.

It’s a type of celebrity-ization. Naturally, we yearn for a certain level of notoriety, whether factual or perceived. This same goal has also influenced our rationality and action. It has reshaped the way in which people communicate, engage, carry themselves, and at times it has influenced how information is generated and sustained.

Rationality is one of humanity’s most significant achievements. It is the characteristic that shapes all of our actions and beliefs—it makes a choice a necessity. In a normative environment, rationality should inform the conclusions we make about information we take in. A rational decision is said to be one that can achieve a goal or solve a problem—a decision that is founded on one’s reasons to act.

We use a certain level of rationale in our everyday interactions, in both our personal and professional lives. A comparative study conducted by J. Whitman and T. Woodward, which was grounded in quantifiable evidence, found that people adapt their rationality not only by the perceived strength of the evidence they receive (or content), but also by how information is fed to them.

Enter the pervasiveness of social media. It’s almost as if we operate in two disenfranchised environments. On one hand, we have the physical reality of our daily interactions where accountability is closely aligned with our personal standing. On the other, we have the social construct of the digital world where liability is slightly different and our singular objectives remain focused on cosmetic indicators of success.

This is what we at Zync call the Social Rationality Divide. With the presence of social media, the way in which content and information is fed to us has departed from the normalcy of qualified claims and influence. Many take information, facts and statements at face value; often based on the influence they perceive the other to have. The so-called “social media influencer” is substantiated by quantitative indicators (ie. followers) or simplistic interactions.

People influence us all in some way shape or form. However, social media has impeded our ability to formulate clear rationale within the digital world – and it can bleed into our physical interactions.

With the way in which vanity, celebrity and popularization affects our rationale, there is an ever-present deliberation about how it impacts marketing and brand building. The true definition of marketing is creating a story that matters—one that connects with an audience in meaningful ways and spreads. This is in an effort to have people want to take action—to make that rational choice to act.

The Social Rationality Divide, although simplistic in definition, shrouds that actionable influence – more people are seeking to become inspired in ways that are disconnected from the “real” world. Content and information on social media is a clear influencer of rationale and decisions. The way in which that content achieves this is dependent on the way it is delivered—or fed—to an audience.

While the Social Rationality Divide presents certain barriers in regards to reaching a target audience through meaningful content, it also provides insight that should inform social media strategy.

Professionals should acknowledge this pseudo-reality  and understand that content, information and storylines must be created in two distinct ways:

  1. Quick, simple and shareable: This is the style that will resonate with those who amplify content on a rapid basis for—the GroupThinkers. We must understand that those individuals will not be the ones to shape actions of others, however they should not be forgotten because they are the vehicles for your content, so make it succinct, creative and compelling on the cosmetic level.
  2. Deep, connective and meaningful: We need to appeal to those who will in fact influence the actions of others. These are the individuals who a brand can truly connect with on a level beyond vanity—one that will spur engagement, discussion and what we call value-add sharing. These individuals are too vehicles, but they operate in a different way—a rational way that influences other subsets of the marketplace.