If you’ve ever been in an orchard, seen a yummy-looking apple just above your head, picked it, and taken a bite, you may have experienced the problem with doing  things the easy way. Low-hanging fruit may be easy to lay your hands on, but that doesn’t make it the best choice.

By the way, it can be, if all you’re after is the quick hit, but most of the time a more involved strategy bears . . . umm . . . fruit . . . that you’ll like better in the long run.

I came across this post a couple of weeks ago, and the author makes a great point; in social media, low-hanging fruit isn’t really all that nutritious.

You may know someone who’s joined Twitter, subscribed to a service that built his follower count for him, and then, twenty thousand “friends” later, wondered aloud why Twitter wasn’t doing anything.

And the answer is that those people weren’t real.

I mean that in a couple of ways. First, many of the followers you pick up using that kind of service actually aren’t real people at all; they’re accounts created to make numbers of some sort and nobody is reading anything that runs through them. But as big an issue as that is, the second is even more important:

Just because someone (real) is “following” you doesn’t mean they’re engaged.

I pointed out how little Kim Kardashian’s high follower count meant almost a year ago. Another time, I explained the fallacy in Ashton Kutcher’s “importance” on Twitter. The point of these posts is that it isn’t the number that matters, it’s the way the number is engaged.

Kim Kardashian is “followed” by millions of (vapid teen-aged girls?) who think she’s cool. Ashton Kutcher at least has an acting career, and I presume that most of his followers are more interested in that than in the cameras and other products he helps sell. But regardless of how many or few of their followers are “real” and actually read what these two people tweet, their Twitter accounts will ultimately be nothing more than commercial messages unless there’s engagement in two directions.

That may not matter to you when you’re Kim Kardasian or Ashton Kutcher; pure adulation is the coin of your realm. but when you’re a business trying to use social media as a tool it had better. Small business gets this, but faces the issues that small business always faces; business change (and growth) are simply . . . hard.

Large businesses get it too, and some of them employ teams of people who’s entire job is to make nice with their “fans”. Disingenuous? Perhaps. But without that kind of engagement their social media activities will ultimately be no more useful than Ms. Kardashian’s or Mr. Kutcher’s. To their fans or to them.

What’s your business doing in social media and social networking? Isn’t it time you figured out how these business changes really work?

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