Social Media: “The Numbers Don’t Lie”

“The numbers don’t lie.” This is a phrase I have heard often since @lindsaykap joined The Social Media Dream Team. How true, how true, BUT … it depends what numbers you look at!

Recently, I was asked to comment on a requirement from a RFP (request for proposal) looking for measurement of “brand vitality.” No surprise, some of the parameters that were required for input included uniques per month (on the brand dot com), number of Twitter followers, and number of Facebook fans. The information requested shows an incomplete part of the story. Yes, everyone wants to know how many followers and fans you have, but what is really important from a marketing and social media perspective is how much your content is consumed and shared.

Having 1M followers is an impressive number, but that does not mean a) your followers get your content or consume it, b) your content/updates are shared, and c) you have influence. There are different algorithms out there that measure “social reach”. (i.e. twinfluence) There are other parameters that are extremely important as well – number of retweets and the number of Twitter Lists that you are included in. If any one person is following 1K twitter accounts, how could they possible consume all the tweets from all those they are following? Addition in Twitter Lists and how the follower uses a Twitter client tell a much stronger story. (Not possible to capture twitter client usage, but lists – yes.)

Same scenario for Facebook – how many fans you have tells a part of the story. We were recently looking at Facebook data when we made some “best practice” changes to Facebook. Our small changes resulted in over 50% increase of unique visits back to one of our brand sites Facebook. But even more important than this, we saw over 150% increase of page views from the traffic from Facebook. The point here is not only the importance of user unique visit numbers, but their stickiness to our content. What I emphasize is not just getting an increase of fans (“likes” as it is now) or of visits, but an increase of visits from the right target audience. Now that shows brand vitality.

I also make it a point to stress the importance of relationships. So how do you measure relationships? You can measure engagements which is a key attribute of relationships. Some parameters that fall in this category include:

• Comments:
– Comments to articles and posts
– Comments to posted pictures
– Comments to posted videos
– Comments to livecasts
• Mentions
– Blogs
– Portals
– Twitter – both mentions and retweets
– Facebook
• Conversations
– on Twitter
– on Facebook

We just launched two blogs on Tumblr. The parameters of importance there are not only followers, but notes/comments and reblog numbers as well. Other important social media areas of measurement include Digg, Delicious, and other bookmarks – is your content/brand marked for sharing – is it deemed worthy of sharing?

There are numerous social media monitoring tools that measure “authority” or “influence”. These vendors use their own proprietary algorithms that take into consideration such things as followers, text mentions, URL mentions, RSS feeds, subscribers, and other things. So when we talk about brand vitality, “social reach” needs to be included as well as the obvious things measured (fans, followers, etc) and Comscore/Omniture-like data.

So yes, “the numbers don’t lie” is absolutely correct. But what you measure and report may not tell the correct story. Be smart and proceed accordingly.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under brands, Facebook, marketing, measuring social media, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Tumblr, Twitter, Uncategorized

10 responses to “Social Media: “The Numbers Don’t Lie”

  1. Joe

    Nice take on SM metrics. The more adopters the better the analytics should get. For Twitter, my current favorite is Klout, they seem to know what they are doing.

  2. Hi Steve,

    This blog post is particularly important to me when I begin a Social Media Engagement with a client. To me, the number of followers or fans is irrelevant if they are not truly interested in the product, service, or knowledge being shared. (There are lots of automated ways to raise the numbers.) I typically start an engagement by asking “what are your goals?” – no one has ever said that a goal is to get as many fans as possible!

    Now, I could see that a broad based consumer products brand could benefit from as many fans as possible, rather like TV advertising where you expect to exchange relevance for volume.

    But I’ve been focused on more meaningful dialog in specialized spaces.

    The measure of brand vitality has to reflect the original goals of the company – back to vision, mission, values; the goals for the brand; the goals for the users/fans. Each matrix of measurement has to be adjusted for emphasis accordingly.

  3. Good points, Steve. I might add that in the world of measuring social media, we’re often dealing with the fuzzy. But just because it’s fuzzy doesn’t mean that it’s not valid; it just means we need to add some “slop room”, must as political pollsters do. There is a margin of error, and in social media, we need to keep it broad.

    Number of followers is a pretty useless measure. I would rather my brand have 200 really hyper-relevant connections in Twitter, than 20,000 twitter drones.

  4. Hi Steve,
    Do you have a list of social media monitoring tools that you can recommend? I would like to start monitoring the mentions of my brand


  5. Great article Steve! I agree with Wendy, “the measure of brand vitality has to reflect the original goals of the company…” and Ric, hit it on the nose regarding Twitter – no one needs 20,000 drones!

  6. Two points:

    1. Chris Treadaway published an article called “What are alternatives to social media ROI metrics.” Chris makes a statement, similar to the comments above, that the standard metrics – fans, followers – do not tell the whole story. Instead, things like consumer insight, customer satisfaction, viral benefits are potentially even more beneficial in a social media marketing campaign.

    2. I know that there is an argument that states that more followers do not necessarily mean more ‘action’ however statistically more followers normally mean more ‘action’ (however we define ‘action’).

    • On point 2, Dag, couldn’t you just see an agency telling their client; but we’ve got you 5000 new followers on twitter.

      And all 5000 being tweeters who are just on Twitter to build up their lists. I think it is a game for a lot of people… like collecting buttons.

      If only there was a SIMPLE way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

      • Hi Ric,

        Yes, it is a tough one. Lithium Technologies (I am not affiliated with them) last year published a paper called Community Health Index.
        They define a few different parameters that make up a healthy, engaging community. It is a good paper on how to make your social media community more active.

        I believe it is basically already proven that the more active a user is, the more the user will purchase “and” the more the user will virally spread the word.

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