This week I lost a client. It wasn’t enjoyable, it’s not something I look to do. It makes me feel disappointed in myself. But when I step back and look at the number one reason he wanted to pull out of his legally binding contract after two months, I have to step back, shrug my shoulders and say, “ok, good luck to you.”

The client felt that not enough progress had happened in his brand-building during the two months we had the opportunity to represent him. For the most part, we were working on two channels: Facebook and Twitter. Despite several attempts to get some details about details of his business, we were really having to create the content out of absolutely nowhere. Sometimes this is possible, but really, to make it a real voice, the content has to be based on real stuff.

The thing that some people don’t get about social media utilization is that it isn’t a magic bullet. If your advertising and PR efforts aren’t bringing you business, then chances are social isn’t going to be the quick solution either. You don’t have to understand technology to understand social, you have to understand people. This post by my friend Patrick over at Red e App sums it up nicely.

When you’re out in the world and you meet someone new, do you immediately give them all your credibility and declare them your best friend? No, of course not. It takes time. Sometimes the first group of people you meet ends up not being the people you stay with. Sometimes it takes a couple circles to find your niche. The same is true on Twitter.

This particular client was mostly disappointed in the numbers on Twitter. The numbers. Not the types of people we found, not the amount of engagement, simply the number of followers. Which is where I had to let go and say, “he just doesn’t get it.”

To grow real, considerate, credible friends in the real world, it takes time, devotion, loyalty and digging in. I know this because I’m still genuinely friends with people I’ve known my whole life, and throughout different periods of my lifetime. I am fiercely loyal to these people. The same is true on Twitter. The people we meet on Twitter on behalf of our clients are real people, and we treat them as such. It can truly take a year or longer before a Twitter account takes hold, before it earns the credibility you think it deserves. Finding the right people who make sense for your brand takes effort and a legitimate concern for the people with whom you are speaking.

Admittedly, numbers are a way to show progress. They are a way to say, “We started with zero people listening, now we’ve got 100.” More importantly, we report to our clients on retweets, mentions and engagement. Because you can have 100,000 followers, but if no one is speaking to you directly, that’s not social. That’s just shouting.

I wish this company well. I hope he finds that magic bullet he’s hoping to find. But social is simply that – social. If done well, a brand can behave like a person and can build lasting relationships that lead to continued brand awareness, and increased revenue. If not done well, if a company is simply collecting followers…. well… it shows.

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