I feel like I can’t repeat this enough… it is not about how many Facebook fans you have. It is about what you do to engage and convert them. How many of your Facebook fans or Twitter followers are really active?

These days, most companies are obsessed with counting their fans and followers instead of turning them into real customers.

At a meeting of community managers in New York last month, the Social Media Director of Fast Company said her bosses mainly measured success by the number of reported followers. But she noted it probably wasn’t the best metric for gauging success.

Like Fast Company, brands have been rushing to collect fans over the last two years with many achieving impressive results. The Pringles Facebook page, for example, has a whopping ten million fans. Problem is, only a tenth of one percent of them actually did something on the chip-maker’s site in the last three months.

To move to the next stage in the social media evolution, brands need to start focusing on actively engaging their fans over a sustained period of time. An active fan is one who has a relationship with a brand and, at least once a month, reacts to posts on the brand page, indicates a liking for various content, retweets a brand’s messages or creates original content on the page.

Some brands are starting to get the message. MTV, for example, has 154,000 active fans out of a total 17 million. Compare that to Oreo, which has the same number of fans with only 70,000 active.

Marketing, as we all know, is a call to action. In creating active fans, every brand has to chart its own path. Brands have to decide whether they want more comments on their page or if they prefer to convert fans into ambassadors who spread the message. Do they want fans to visit their online store or play games that indicate what they are interested in?

We are nearing the end of social media’s buzz stage – where everyone is doing something just because everyone else is doing it. Brands now have to begin harnessing the value of their social media fans or risk being left in the dust.

Eran Gefen is the chief executive officer and co-founder of FanGager.

via Collecting Facebook Fans is No Longer Enough.