As humans we seem to be wired for games and keeping score. Even when there is no material reward, we want to know how we did compared to others.
Perhaps that drive is connected deep down to some kind of evolutionary imperative where competition for food, mates, offspring, or just the number of people watching our backs for saber tooth tigers meant the difference between walking upright or remaining a threatened knuckle-dragger. Accountants and comptrollers aren’t the only bean counters out there. We all are.
Whatever the root of the counting instinct, it is the cause of much distraction and time-wasting in the world of social media. As I wrote in Tweeple or People? Get Twitter Followers that Matter, “One of the most seductive aspects of online activity is the numbers game. It started 20 years ago with Web 1.0 ‘counters’ at the bottom of websites, and the game has never stopped. Blog followers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Google Analytics… And so many other ways of getting caught up in counting rather than connecting.”
The reason all of this activity is a waste of time at best and a dangerous distraction at worst is because it takes a lot of resources to build up, and have almost no value.
In the Hubspot article 5 Vanity Metrics to Stop Measuring (And Better Alternatives), Janet Aronica lays out some great examples of how we are counting the wrong metrics in most of our Social Media management. Aronica goes on to make suggestions for each channel (Facebook, Twitter, Blogging) which metrics we should be watching. The suggestions are excellent and really are a must-read for anyone wishing to improve their ability to measure the success of a SM strategy.
Using the Hubspot piece as a jumping off point, I wanted to dig deeper into the four main points in the article:
- Facebook. The bottom line is, not only does the number of fans you have not tell you much, numbers period are ultimately beside the point for smaller brands. The quality of the engagement matters so much more. Are you asking questions that encourage dialogue? When someone comments do you consistently reply? Do you get feedback that your posts and comments are making a difference in the lives of your fans? Real relationships, built one at a time, will eventually result in business. Anything short of that is shooting in the dark.
- Twitter. Aronica’s suggestion you identify your competitor’s followers who aren’t following you is a good one. I would like to go beyond finding out why they aren’t following you. What is your competitor offering to keep them engaged, that you aren’t? Sometimes there isn’t anything there at all… your competitor is just more aggressive using black hat tricks to build a huge following list. Do you want some of those for yourself? Take the time to identify the more active of your competitors followers and retweet them. Nothing gets someone’s attention better than acknowledging them and making them feel good. Added bonus: in paying closer attention to what your competitors’ followers are talking about, you will learn something about your market.
- Blogs. Aronica writes “Search engines like Bing and Google now consider tweets and Facebook shares in their algorithms.” This is an extremely important piece of information that has implications for any business taking a hand’s-on approach to SEO and relationship-building content. This has two implications. First, to make use of this your website has to have fresh ‘tweetable’ content. I.e. it has to be a CMS-style (blog) website. Second, this is another strong argument that social media channels like Twitter and Facebook are no longer optional for businesses. Does web traffic matter for your business? Then you had better be on Twitter and Facebook.
- User numbers. Repeat business matters more than new business. I’ve said it before, here and here. Tracking visitors, users, and customers as an undifferentiated lump, without breaking them into new and repeat tells you only a small fraction of what you really need to know. Find out what brings people, find out what keeps them and what brings them back, and then give them more of that. And while you’re at it, provide incentives for them to bring their friends with them.
Want to improve your communication with employees, partners,and customers? I help organizations improve communication through social media strategies and management-level workshops. Check out these opportunities to work with me online, from anywhere in the world: Effective Online Coaching Programs.
There’s more! Looking for success in your small business? Read my Small Business blog at Small Business Fundamentals (www.smbfundamentals.com).