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I just read an article on the NPR website about “Figuring The Value Of Social Media Followers” that stated, “what you really want is a passionate audience, even if it’s slightly smaller, versus a larger, meh audience.”

My BS alarm went off. Here’s why: The statement is far too vague and general.

How do you measure “passionate?” The person who uttered this nonsense said that it shows in things such as likes, retweets, shares, reblogs, etc. Okay, let’s go down this road. I’m writing this blog post and something like 85% of my audience is really passionate about it and shares it, reblogs it, etc. I post a link to my blog post on my social media accounts with some sort of comment to get people to click on my link and read it. I get similar numbers on those social media posts and 85% of my following does something with the posts such as comment, like, share, retweet, etc. Cool! I’m awesome! Yay for me!

What does that mean for my business? It might not mean a damn thing. Passion doesn’t matter if it doesn’t turn into dollars (or euros or yen or whatever).

Okay, I’m now going to use some simple arithmetic to show that size really does matter. It matters a lot more than passion when it comes to an audience.

Example 1:

• Audience size = 100 living, breathing, people. (Note – this definition precludes any padding of audience figures with “fake followers”)
• 50% of the audience is “engaged” in some way and takes one of the actions referred to above. = 50 people.
• 3% of the audience buys something = 3 people.

Example 2:

• Audience size = 120 living, breathing, people.
• 50% of the audience is “engaged” in some way and takes one of the actions referred to above. = 60 people.
• 3% of the audience buys something = 3-4 people (actual figure is 3.6).

Example 3:

This example uses much a lower percentage for engagement but a larger audience.

• Audience size = 500 living, breathing, people.
• 3% of the audience is “engaged” in some way and takes one of the actions referred to above = 15 people.
• 3% of the audience buys something = 15 people.

If the sales percentages were to hold regardless of audience size then the bigger the audience I had, the more sales I’d get.

As a business owner, you’re engaging in social media, blogging, advertising and other promotional activities to generate sales. Since there isn’t necessarily a correlation between “engagement” and sales, your focus should remain on the size of your audience and how often you’re getting your message to it.

This is why corporations spend bundles of cash on Super Bowl ads. The audience is HUGE. Even a small conversion percentage will have a significant impact on sales.

If the NPR article had connected audience “passion” with sales figures they might be able to change my mind. Even if their source said something like, “whenever a company gets audience engagement above X% their sales increase by Y%, according to our research,” I would have listened and re-evaluated my position. They didn’t, so I won’t. The number of real live human beings in your audience is more important than any nebulous engagement figures. Then the better you are at communicating with them, the better your sales will be as a percentage of that audience.

If the sole measure of audience passion were the number of shares, I might go with that definition for the simple reason that shares increase the audience size. If I have an audience of 100 and 10 of them shared a post (10%) and each of them had an audience of 100, my post reaches 1100 people instead of 100. Even better if my post is shared by 1 person who has an audience of 10,000. Here a 1% engagement is better than a 10% engagement. Again it’s about size.

So, build a huge audience of living, breathing, people and communicate to them about your products and services. You’ll get sales.