I'm a big fan of social media as a tool to measure and alter customer behavior. While numbers can be gamed (You'd be surprised how much $50 would buy you in fake traffic), there is a value in building a fan base in social media because of what it tells you. Sometimes, adding numbers is useful because of what you learn.
It starts with this: What makes someone click Like?
Let's say I have an email list of 10,000 customers. I send out an email asking them to like my new Facebook page. My fan base goes from 115 to 2200 in a week. Is that a good thing? What can I learn from it?
Many people would say that the number of fans doesn't matter because 98% of those people liking the page will never go back to it. But I'm not counting the increase in fans. I'm counting a response rate in my email list. Boosting your fan base from 115 to 2200 based solely on an email is phenomenal, because it tells you huge numbers of your email list are responsive and are on Facebook. It also tells you they like you enough to do what you say and click "Like."
Experiencing a jump in Facebook fans from email, or from putting a sticker on the door of your restaurant, or in having your managers go around tables and asking people to do so, is a very valuable data point. It's not cheating, it's understanding what you're capable of doing with the resources at your disposal. In these cases, the traffic, while it may be of little consequence, gives you clues about your information networks that are very valuable.
That example was a little too easy. How about we go after one that gets laughed at?
It's not supposed to be kosher to run contests giving away things to get Facebook fans. Asking someone to Like a page for a contest doesn't measure value. But what happens after the contest is over? If you go from 1000 likes to 1,000,000 likes because of a contest, that's a PR win, but the agency doing so didn't really help you, right? We can all agree to that (while secretly being jealous that the agency is going to use that as a case study).
So what happens, when that 1,000,000 turns to 2,500,000 likes in the next year, without a contest? If it's all nonsense, what is happening that you can see a result like that? Clearly, having a large number of likes led other people to click like - simply out of the peer pressure of wanting to be like others. Can we learn something from this?
I'll leave that for you to ponder (and if you still say no, you can get off my damn page right now), but numbers mean things, and any time you can create activity online, you can learn something about your audience.
In the argument about social media expertise, maybe we ought to be asking ourselves what social media teaches us, rather than about what we can do with it.