When it comes to social media, we’re still figuring this out. And something that Lori Lewis wrote last week for her All Access “Merge” column continues to resonate with me.
It’s the age-old question: which metrics truly matter?
We’ve had this discussion in radio since Bill Drake. Is it cume – that is, the total “circulation” of a radio station’s audience? Or is it AQH – the length of time your listeners stay tuned in – or engaged – to your programming?
We know that the cume is the most attractive number. It’s that big box car metric that has gotten even bigger for most stations since the advent of PPM. And yet as Arbitron has shown us, there’s an awful lot of “incidental cume” floating around out there, as consumers come into contact with radio stations they don’t really value – or even notice.
And that same argument is taking place in social media, too. We shouldn’t be surprised that the social media metrics rules are being rewritten as we speak. Because it’s perhaps the third inning for social media (the first: MySpace, the second: the Facebook explosion), as we try to get our quantitative heads around what matters in social media. That is what’s at the heart of the challenge.
First, it was Mark Zuckerberg who reminded us that the true essence of Facebook is “direct and authentic dialogue with consumers” – not promoting our contest giveaways, driving fans to advertisers, or reminding them of our Verizon remotes.
And then there was Zuckerberg sanding down the importance of the number of “likes” brands amass by creating the “People Talking About You” stat that has leveled the playing field, and bruised a few social media egos at the same time. And Facebook makes it as public as a restroom side, living right next to the “likes” stat on your page. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “Size, in fact, doesn’t matter.”
Now Twitter’s co-creator, Ev Williams (above) has weighed in with a similar message, discounting the number of Twitter followers in favor of the more influential “retweet” – or sharing tweets with others. Williams comments that “The thing I think would be more interesting than followers is…retweets.”
And rather than thinking of the “vanity metric” that is the number of followers, Williams pointed out the “dream metric” should focus on how many people saw your tweet. And that connects back to posting content strong and compelling enough to make people want to share it – or retweet it.
As Lori has noted on “Merge,” in Jacobs Media client memos, and right here on JacoBLOG, the number of “likes” or “followers” does not equate to brand impact nor does it measure the quality and depth of your fan relationships. Aggregating more of each on Facebook and Twitter has become something of a game. And that’s why there are so many companies crudely trying to sell you more of them:
Think about social media goals that focus on engagement rather than driving up these “vanity metrics.” As Lori points out, the more you “emulate the appearance of your fans’ dialogue, the more meaningful interaction you’ll generate.”
That’s always been the case: authenticity and quality over quantity.