Let's get one thing clear: just because I gave you a like, doesn't mean I'm a fan. This is social media, where nuance is critical and yet often completely impossible. That like or follow was probably the lowest form of engagement I could muster at the time. In the real world it would have been equivalent to a cursory glance at best.

"Oh you did a thing? I'll grace that thing with a brief look. Maybe I'll extend that look to a raised eyebrow of recognition. Nothing more. Now move on."

 Yet on the brand side, this barely-a-moment somehow translates into a special time that we shared and treasured together. It's like a guy on the dancefloor of a club who gets a look of disdain from a girl and thinks to himself: "Yep, I'm in there. Most definitely. We'll be life partners for sure. She looked at me."

This clear disconnect is at the centre of my problem with fanbase marketing. Brands have a tendency to treat any brand engagement from a user as if said user has a sizable crush on them. No one wants to be spammed by a brand like they're BFFs. It's weird. 

The reality is, little is done to discern whether a follower is actually a "fan", just someone who happened to like one thing a brand said or, indeed, if they are someone who accidentally followed John Lewis the retail store when they really meant to follow John Lewis the computer science educator.

So what's the problem? Well, not knowing who your real fans are and relying on vanity follower metrics creates an immediate problem. Of course it is a good start to have a base of 500,000 followers, but if you're getting three likes and a retweet every time you kick out a piece of content, what is the point? Vanity measures on fanbases = fanity metrics.

As my learned colleagues across our digital teams will tell you, the real underlying issue is that we're continuing to take an umbrella approach to social platforms when that nuance we're craving is actually in the platform selection and strategy itself. You want actual fans? Then take the time to create personas against each channel, map a content strategy against them and then use engagement-led activities which are suited to those fans on that channel.

Once you've done that, put on your big unisex pants and select some measurement metrics which actually tell you something about those so-called fans, don't hide behind a number which makes you feel good but means absolutely nothing.

Where do you go when you have sorted all that? Well then you aspire to be Disney or Amazon. The former built its own platform, Disney+, where fans actually pay monthly to see the best of the brand, and the latter bought Twitch to take fan-monetisation to the next level! Fans as a revenue stream…now there's a thing.

Come and chat to our digital experts about how we're helping clients rethink their social strategies.

Of course when you write a post like this and no one comments…who's laughing then?