We live in a world where popularity is judged by the number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn connections we have. Unfortunately, social media managers, whether a solo startup entrepreneur or a fortune 500 corporate team, often get sucked into the same trap – judging the success of their social media campaigns on vanity metrics.
What are vanity metrics?
In a word, exactly what they sound like, trivial numbers and facts that make your social media pages seem more robust and effective than they actually are. Here are 2 figures that you shouldn’t ignore, but rather, take with a grain of salt.
Remember, when we are talking about these metrics, we are gauging their importance based on marketing purpose / effectiveness.
1. Facebook Fans / Page Likes – Sure your 80s themed roller rink seems popular because you have 1,200 Facebook fans but lets break that number down for marketing purposes. First, we need to assume that 10% (probably on the low end) of your fans are your Grandpa’s poker buddies and your college friends who live halfway across the country and never have or ever will set foot in your business. That leaves us with 1,080 “relevant” fans. Now, lets remember that on a given day/time, excluding Wednesdays which have an 8% bump in post visibility for some unknown reason (apparently due to increased usage), and dependent on media content / links, your post will probably only reach 15% of your fans. That means, of your 1,200 total fans, your post will actually only reach 162 relevant people.
2. Twitter Followers– Similar to the Facebook Fan issue, Twitter followers make any social media “expert” or small business “consultant” seem like an expert. Say that Jon Smith, who is a self-described social media “consultant”, has 1,000 followers. Again, lets break that number down. Much like the 80s themed roller rink has irrelevant fans halfway across the country, Jon Smith has followers who are nothing more than spam (we all do). They, on average, account for 5-11% of followers, 72% if you’re Lady Gaga. On the low end, that leaves Jon with 950 relevant followers. On top of that, it is important to remember that Twitter is a feed, it is constantly being updating, scrolling, and the rapidity of your tweet’s decent to the bottom of the pile, is heavily dependent on the accounts that your followers follow and the frequency / rate at which those accounts post. The faster and more often those accounts post, the quicker your tweet will plummet into oblivion. Taking that into account, we can reasonably surmise that between only 10 and 20% of your followers will actually see a tweet, it may very well be a much lower percentage. If we calculate in both of these very important realities, Jon, the relatively notorious social media “consultant” with 1,000 followers actually only sees his posts reach 190 (on the high end) people. 190 seems a lot less than 1,000 doesn’t it?
The metrics you should take seriously.
Although technically two separate metrics, they are, for all intents and purposes the same. You should be closely monitoring the number of Facebook shares and Twitter retweets each of your posts / tweets receives. More specifically, you should track the ratio between your number of relevant users and your active users – that is, the number of fans / followers you have that actively interact with your posts and share them with their own friends or followers. Essentially, this is a digital version of “the network value of a customer”.
To give an example of the importance of these metrics lets look at an example. Lets say a local cigar shop has 50 Twitter followers (the exact same rules / principals apply to Facebook), 5% of them are spam. Of their 47 relevant / real followers, all of whom are local, loyal customers, 20% see each tweet, roughly 9 people. However, of those 9 people, 4 (~45%) of them retweet the cigar shop’s post. On average they each have 125 followers, totaling 500. Of those additional 500 people, 5% are spam, leaving 475 people. Of those 475 people, 95 (20%) will actually see the retweet. So, assuming there is only one level of retweets, the cigar shop that only has 50 followers, most whom are engaged, will actually have 104 people view their tweet, even though only 9 of their 50 followers even saw the post. If you compare that to Jon Smith, the social media “consultant” with 1,000 followers, it quickly becomes apparent that activity metrics are far more important than the vanity metrics we have become so accustom to monitoring.
© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.