Effective social media marketing requires a lot more than simple growth in terms of following and engagement. E-commerce entrepreneurs and digital marketing professionals should understand that the quality of one’s following is often more important than the quantity. Not all followers are created equal, and when your definition of success extends beyond the pointless pursuit of fame, it should lead you to an effective social media marketing strategy, consisting of targeted engagement and a self-reinforcing follower base.

Large followings do have some impact on the likelihood of other users clicking follow as well, so it’s not as if the numbers are irrelevant. But they should always be a secondary thought, at best. It’s better to sacrifice five random, unmotivated new follows if it means acquiring just one that will pay real attention to your content, and considering sharing that content with like-minded folks.

In contrast to an increased overall following, this sort of genuine engagement is something you cannot fake. Would-be social media influencers can buy followers, and politicians can rely on bot farms to make their ideas seem popular. But e-commerce professionals do not have the luxury of such shortcuts. For them, good outcomes are only the effect of effective social media marketing and a general marketing strategy.

Of course, digital marketing firms can potentially use dummy accounts to simulate real engagement, but even in that case there needs to be a real person behind it, interacting in ways that go beyond automatic likes and reposts. Early adoption of dummy accounts actually can be a tool of effective social media marketing, but only insofar as they provide a model for the sort of engagement the company will need to quickly start seeing from its actual customers and potential customers.

The engagement in question might consist of direct questions about the company’s products, or personal anecdotes about those products, the company itself, or consumer experiences in general. If some of these things come from dummy accounts, they must be accompanied by a broader strategy for the company’s own content. If both of these elements are working together, then genuine followers should feel encouraged to share their own stories and ask their own questions, being confident that the environment is right for them to do so.

When that happens, it’s a sure sign that the company has achieved effective social media marketing. That remains true even if the raw number of engagements and new follows remains low for a while. The most important thing is to establish a real community of consumers who care about what the company has to offer. Once the groundwork is set for this, general growth can be expected to follow close behind.

When it does, new followers will discover that the relevant company’s social media pages are showcases for high-quality customer service and a genuine concern for customers’ interests – two things to which all consumers should be expected to attach the utmost value. In other words, effective social media marketing not only prioritizes quality over quantity, it also produces the same.