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Social numbers – do they matter?

By Tim Fuell - February 21, 2015

You’ve taken to social media to market and enhance your business profile. You are following all the advice all the rules and all the trends, but is it really working? In the data-driven world in which we now live, the logical test would perhaps be to look at figures, at the various numbers that are fairly openly available with social media accounts, but what relevance do these figures really have?

The number of posts

Content is king and without it your profile is meaningless. Regular posting will help improve not only your visibility but also your level of engagement. Is there a limit? Well quantity will never beat quality, so rather than spending your limited time posting like a machine gun, keep the posts regular and operate a bit more like a sniper, picking off topics you know will be guaranteed to hit the target. There is value to the metric however as somebody who posts regularly is at least showing a willingness to engage even if they haven’t quite got it. If you are looking for potential in another, somebody or a company that only posts once per week is unlikely to be properly embracing social media in the way you are probably hoping for.

Image: Patryk Sobczak (Creative Commons

Image: Patryk Sobczak (Creative Commons

Followers and friends

Thousands of followers and hundreds of friends. Critics of social media will say it’s a fake world where the people aren’t actually your friends and couldn’t actually care less about you. To an extent, that is true. However many friends and followers you may have, if they are unengaged they are worthless to you. Some may pick up a titbit here and they and engage with you, but in social media, to get real results the old adage of quality over quantity is more often than not true.

Likes and favourites

The problem with likes and favourites is that people use them for different reasons. Many use them as a nod of appreciation for what they have read, a thank you or a ‘feel your pain’ type acknowledgement. Others use them like a bookmark: “Here’s a post I like and may like to come back to”. Of all the social metrics they are probably the least likely to provide firm, direct insight into how well a person or organisation is using social media.

Comments and retweets

If there is one sort of social metric to pay attention to it’s the comments and retweets – the engagement factors! How do you know the 100 or 10,000 people who are following you actually appreciate what you are publishing? They interact, they engage, they comment on Facebook or reply on Twitter. People make comment even if they disagree – that’s good it’s all engagement and it proves you have at least got people thinking. Having a middle of the road opinion is not the best way to succeed on social media, so don’t be afraid to have an opinion. If people really like what you are doing they will want to share it with their own community. Here they will retweet your article on Twitter or share via Facebook, etc. It’s a recognition you should strive to achieve with your social media posts. The social media gurus of this world are the ones who post a branded image or the like and then see that and their name shared across platforms and around the globe.

Image: Caleb George (Creative Commons)

Image: Caleb George (Creative Commons

Engagements and reach

Both Twitter and Facebook offer free analytics platforms that you can use to monitor your efforts, so use them. You’ll find Facebook analytics under the “Insights” tab of your business’s Facebook page. With Twitter you can find analytics via the profile and settings menus. In both cases you can access a wealth of data on engagements and reach (Twitter calls the latter “impressions”). Engagements include likes, comments, retweets, replies and so on, while reach and impressions are the number of people who saw a post or tweet. Below you can see an example of some of the data you can get through Facebook Insights, as well as a screenshot of @123reg’s Twitter analytics with some data removed. Get familiar with the information on offer and you’ll have a better idea of how your social media efforts are going.

Facebook analytics

Facebook analytics

Twitter analytics

Twitter analytics

Social scores

We’ve mentioned ways to measure your social impact before  Perhaps emphasising the difficulty to pin down relevant social metrics only really Klout really continues to attract interest , with Kred still in operation but having been deserted by its original founders and PeerIndex having moved off into business insights. So what of Klout? Is it relevant? The answer from some will be no. It’s a game to them that can be gamified and doesn’t offer a true reflection of what successful social media is all about. Others like myself would suggest that it’s the best we have and if you are taking social media seriously – as any business, whatever size, should – you need some benchmark tool to work with and Klout is pretty much the only one to offer that opportunity. Klout offers a benchmark figure supposedly based on engagement across the platforms you use for social media. That’s a good start and whilst there are frailties the ability to include the Klout plugin as part of your Twitter stream you can soon see and understand how a user’s higher Klout score is relevant to the quality of their posts and interactions. Not perfect but a start and well worth studying if you want to understand social engagement. One thing for starters is that it is far easier to gain comments and shares via Facebook than retweets and comments on Twitter, so Facebook is a far better immediate engagement tool, which will help push any Klout score up.

The thing about social metrics is that they are only a snapshot, a partial insight and they are also only as good as your interpretation. What understanding social numbers is actually about is understanding what makes good engagement on social media, for it is that that makes you good at social – it is after all the social bit of social media. Klout is perhaps the nearest we currently have in terms of a publicly available scoring of engagement of sorts – but with the secret formula upon which it is based hidden, it is also very difficult to also know if they have it right. The only answer is to keep conversations going. Keep asking questions and keep responding to those who ask questions of you. Consider the use of social media as some kind of quest for the truth. No doubt new metrics will evolve in the coming months as big data, dark data and just about any data people can get their hands on, becomes ever more readily available and seemingly important. In the meantime, remember size isn’t necessarily important.

What metrics do you use to measure social influence or social success?