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We all do it. At some point we’ve all defined our social media success by the number of likes and followers that we have. It’s great to have an army of followers, but what do those numbers really mean?

Likes and follows and retweets are easy to get excited about, but If you’re measuring your social media marketing success based solely on the number of people who like your page, well I can honestly tell you that you’re about to get a whole lot of false positives. These are called vanity metrics and they’re a major reason why many companies struggle with social media marketing. So let’s define a few more of the vanity metrics that we all seem to chase like a bunch of mindless zombies in the Walking Dead:

Everyone makes fun of rednecks - until the zombie apocalypse.

  • Page likes, Twitter followers etc. – These are the numbers that most people seem to focus intently on, however your post reach to that group of followers doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot. The false positive could come the fact that maybe you had a contest once that got you lots of likes but those folks aren’t reading anything you are doing now, for example.
  • Post likes, re-tweets, shares etc. – It’s great that people are liking and sharing your content, but what are you really getting out of it? Likes, retweets and shares are great if if there’s a call to action involved that gets someone to take a next step. The false positive here on this vanity metric can happen when people are liking say, photo updates or a post about what your team did for lunch. Those have no relevance or follow through to your sales funnel. These types of posts certainly have a place within general brand awareness, but when you measure your success they should be taken with a rather large grain of salt.
  • Post Comments, Direct Messages etc. – Once again, it’s nice to see people talking about on social media, but what are those conversations bringing to the table? The kinds of messages I’m talking about here are the ones where people leave two-word responses like like “me too” or the comments that bring nothing to the conversation and don’t engage others with your brand.


Alrighty then. If all these things aren’t successful measurements for my social media marketing, then what should I be looking for?

Meaningful interactions are the key

Social media marketing isn’t just about getting in front of people, it’s about engaging them. You need to look past those vanity metrics and see how people are really interacting with your brand. When you look at interactions on your social media profiles, you need to be able to answer yes to the following:

  • My post likes, re-tweets, shares etc. are mostly on content that links back to my site – I’m not saying don’t post the fun stuff or even share great content from others. It’s important to be helpful, but when you’re measuring success in social media, be sure to  measure the interactions on items that are important to your business. One tip on how to do this easily is if you use a social media managing tool like the one built into Hubspot, you can set each social blast to a campaign and you can then track those campaigns and see how effective they’ve been.
  • The linked pages on my site have clear helpful content and at least one call to action that further helps my social media visitor – If you’re putting in the hard work to create quality content and getting people to click on your social blasts, do your visitors have a clear place to get more information from you? If not, then maybe inbound marketing should be on your radar?
  • I quickly engage and help my social visitors without going straight to the hard sell – Nothing is worse than asking a question on a company’s social media account only to be given a canned sales response. Be helpful and as transparent as possible because you might not just be answering a single person’s question. You could be answering multiple people. 

By now you can probably tell the point I’m trying to make is once you start shifting your focus toward creating great, helpful, and meaningful content, then you are more than likely going to see a shift in some of those vanity metrics that might make you think you’ve gone and sunk the ship. 

Don’t be alarmed! When you start doing things the right way, your stats will shift!

I’ve seen it many times with businesses who have only a few followers to some with tens of thousands – once they start in the right direction toward making their social content more helpful, relevant and primed to convert, their old holy grail metric of followers does something like this:

sociallying-graph1

That looks pretty grim. They start seeing a loss of followers over the coming months and begin to panic, thinking their audience is abandoning them. While it’s true that they are losing followers, it’s important to keep in mind that they are most definitely not the types of followers we wanted in the first place. These are usually the types people who were never potential clients in the first place. It could be that they just followed because of a contest or liked a photo one time and weren’t really interested in what your business has to offer in the first place.

What’s really happening behind the scenes

Although the follower numbers may have dropped, we often begin seeing that visits to the website and social interactions are on the upswing because of all of that great content you’re pumping out! These are the quality interactions we’re really looking for:

sociallying-graph2

We see here an increase in visits from social media in a jump of almost 30% month over month.

sociallying-graph3

Or an increase in interactions of 50% in 3 months after making these changes.

These are the kinds of interactions that are bringing prospects into the site. By really helping these people with their questions about products or services we’re generating qualified leads instead of just getting likes and re-tweets on things that we really don’t have a chance to convert on. What’s even better is we get stats like this over the same time period:

sociallying-graph4

What you’re seeing above is new legitimate leads who have downloaded a content offer on your website and provided you with their name and other valuable marketing information. This my friends is what social media for business is all about. This is how we get people into the sales funnel. This is the bomb-diggity.

In the end, help your visitors, leads and customers

When it comes right down to it, stop getting hung up on your number of likes and followers.  Concentrate on helping visitors get the answers they need through social media and beyond because that’s where some of your best potential customers are looking for solutions.

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