Sure you may have 3,400 friends on Facebook. But are you having 3,400 beers every weekend with each one of them? Probably not.

My goodness, do we ever hope not.

It’s the same set of challenges for companies creating a social media presence. Simply attracting fans is one thing, but engaging them and determining your true brand influencers and those who interact with your brand are the real goals here. 

Fans and More Fans

David Bakey, senior director of acquisition marketing for, an online software training company, told the audience this morning at the Social Media & Web Analytics Innovation Enterprise in Boston #SMWA that his organization has approximately 527,000 Likes on its Facebook page (it’s actually bumped to more than 528,000 today). 

customer experience, Social Media Campaigns: Lots to 'Like' About True Fan Engagement #SMWA

Bakey’s message on attracting fans and friends of fans for your brand? Being popular is everything in high school, but on Facebook and social media, it isn’t the only thing. Popularity on Facebook does matter, Bakey said, in the sense it can help your reach, social influence, SEO and organizational platforms. 

“Increasing your fan base allows you to target more friends of your fans,” Bakey said. Each Facebook fan, he said, averages 300 friends. And if you’ve got friends of friends signing in to your brand and “liking” it, that’s a good thing, considering influential marketing is a booming trend. Friends trust friends when making purchases.

Make Engagement Valuable

Just because you’ve got fans doesn’t mean they’ll be engaging with your brand. Offer something valuable, Bakey said. Value is in the eye of the beholder, he added, but it doesn’t mean you have to offer a free car or trip around the world. 

“People on social media value their time,” Bakey said. Implement free giveaways on your page -- like perhaps EBooks, articles, videos, secrets. Have quizzes.

One campaign Bakey cited asked fans to share their favorite New York City Park. Then, the organization promised to donate $1,000 to the winning park.

Facebook Fangate is another a great way to encourage engagement with your brand, Bakey said. “Like us in exchange for…” is how it works. If they “like” something, they can get access to an offer or more information. Bakey suggests trying to keep your efforts contained to Facebook -- and not your websites -- since “people on Facebook want to stay on Facebook.”

Target the right audience, too, because having a lot of likes that do not engage with your brand and just leave Spam on your wall is not optimal. Don’t gravitate to where you can get the most fans for the cheapest.

“It will bring down your engagement rank and also make more work for you,” Bakey said. “You’ll be having to take down spam posts.” 

Using Analytics as Roadmap

The other big message here at the #SMWA today is having social analytics at your disposal that not only tell a story but help you develop a plan of action. 

Charles Ince, strategic account manager at GNIP, said companies need to have a large view across a diverse set of data in order to understand how social media engagement is working.

He cited the case of JPMorgan, which last year suffered a $2 billion trading loss. Analysis showed that the financial company initially took a large negative hit on Twitter, but that tailed off soon. Then came the blogs, where authors had time to digest the news and soon started producing analysis -- unfavorable, naturally, for JPMorgan.

According to Ince, the data was collected using keyword-heavy metrics. It provided JPMorgan an opportunity to prepare in social media platforms -- and during which times -- for when the news is not so flattering.

“Now, they can do a little more to plan for these events next,” Ince said. 

Another big message here in Boston this week -- use a multi-faceted approach in your analytics, and do not rely holistically on data alone. It’s how AOL approaches its analysis in this space, according to Maureen Dawson, senior manager of analytics for AOL.  

“Utilize large-scale data,” Dawson said in her presentation this morning, “alongside rigorous market research to uncover human insights.”