Goodbye vanity metrics - hello quality metrics - Heart Internet Blog - Focusing on all aspects of the web

A metric is a method of measurement. It’s a term you’ll hear a lot in marketing – “brand awareness metrics”, “bounce-rate metrics”.  You’ll also hear about “vanity metrics”. These are measurements of social media Followers, Likes, Page Views, Shares, and all those social media goodies which feel so important.

Are metrics a problem?

There are concerns – in the corridors of power – that these metrics might really be measuring our descent – and particularly that of our children – into mental illness. They are even talking about Social Media Addiction and discussing having that recognised as a mental health condition.

It’s true that platforms – particularly Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – make skillful use of their infinitely changing scrolling single page configuration, to keep our eyes glued to the screen. But, whether this, alone, can constitute addiction, remains to be seen.

A social or unsocial future?

Science fiction writers have always been a pessimistic bunch. They’ve always predicted that new technology will turn against us (such as the self-aware computers of The Terminator and The Matrix) or that they will be used against us by others (such as Big Brother’s telescreens in ‘1984’ or a steady-stream of designer viruses that hasten the inevitable zombie apocalypse); but few writers have got under the skin of the culture in the way that Charlie Brooker has.

His ‘Black Mirror’ TV series has depicted a wide range of pessimistic visions of the near future of technology, never more-so than in the episode ‘Nosedive’, where your every act is rated and influences your overall socio-economic score. The higher your score, the more services you can purchase. You literally can’t function in society without a high score – so acquiring one becomes a full-time obsession. What makes this system particularly pernicious is the way that the scores of your friends and relatives can affect your score. If they lose points, so can you.

Brooker clearly meant this to be a satire of the way people can chase social media approval through pursuing likes and shares.

Chasing stats

Although this is, thankfully, an extreme example, it’s exactly the scenario that the notion of social media craving is concerned with. After all, it’s perfectly natural and human to want the approval of others.

Businesses pay attention to these metrics, too; but a professional interest in getting Likes and Shares is more concrete – businesses want *customers* to Like them, rather than Friends, because customers who Like a business are aware of that business and, therefore, are more likely to spend money with that business.

It’s the same methodology that inspired shop-keepers to hang signs outside shops – tell people you’re here.

But there are techniques for doing this which are unlikely to put cash in the register.

Clickbait: You’ll never believe what happens next … People got wise, is what happened next! Using inflammatory and, often, deceptive headlines to get people to click – then spreading the article over several pages which required many more clicks – is arguably a method for creating the illusion of Reach. These aren’t customers, they probably aren’t even readers. What they are is people who have learned to distrust tabloid-style headlines in their social feeds, and now don’t click on them.

Followers: Is having thousands of Followers on Twitter a good idea? On the face(book) of it, yes – but not if those people are Following you simply to get you to return the favour. That’s not an exchange that results in either party doing good business. And, if your business is a single shop in Manchester, say, you need to weigh up the commercial value of getting Likes from people in Milwaukee or Moscow.

If you have a thousand Followers on Facebook, that’s a great achievement. But, if you only get Likes and Comments from ten people – the same ten people Engaging with you time and again – then your Content is clearly not working for the majority and, given the way the Facebook algorithms work, the less they interact with your posts, the fewer of them they will see … Causing a downward spiral.

Likes:  It’s easy to become intoxicated by the number of Hearts, Thumbs and Smiley faces your Content receives. Of course it’s gratifying to see that people like what you’ve done. You get that little buzz of Dopamine that makes you momentarily happy. But the danger, from a business perspective, is to dedicate too much time to chasing those Vanity Metrics – when they aren’t directly leading to sales.

Going organic

Businesses have noticed, in the last couple of years, that their ‘Organic Reach’ – that is the number of real people who have seen your post, without you having to pay for them to – has gone down, pretty-much across the board.

Neil Patel reports that, in 2016, the Organic Reach of businesses across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube dropped off a cliff – even though the number of Social Media users was still growing. Patel suggests that this was a deliberate ‘clamp-down’, in order to encourage businesses to spend money on boosting their posts.

He also reports that, in the same year, business spend on boosting posts massively increased. What a remarkable coincidence!

Businesses are willing to spend the money in order to get their Social Content in front of as high a number of people as possible.

So, forcing businesses to pay for engagement a good thing!

Yes, you read that right.

But *why* is it a good thing?

Because it forces companies to make their Content *better*! If they want to get a decent return on their investment, they have to boost Content which is, by definition, engaging. Businesses have to *earn* the Likes and Shares through careful and considered Content, rather than the scatter-shot approach of sharing dozens and dozens of posts in the hope that *something* connects.

When you want to get Engagement from real people – quality is key!

Generating quality metrics

No form of marketing can be considered an exact science – it can only *inform* and *influence* customers, it can’t *compel* them to shop. Not yet, anyway.

But social media marketing can, at least, be measured. There are Metrics recording the numbers of people seeing posts, watching a video, or clicking a link.

SEO, likewise, can produce measurable and valuable data. Google Analytics offers you Metrics to reveal how long users stay on a website and which pages they visit.

Hopefully your checkout will tell you whether or not they buy anything.

All of this gives certain Metrics real value. But which ones are worth the effort?

Facebook page overview

Facebook Insights provides Page Admins with analytical data about Page Visits and Engagement. In the Overview, you can find the info about Engagement with Active Users. Active Users being the ones who have interacted with a post in some way.

This can help you understand which posts work for you, and in which way.

Twitter analytics

This offers you a detailed breakdown of Engagement for your Twitter feed, including allowing you to see how many click-throughs you’ve received. You can also export this info into spreadsheets that allow you to compare and contrast the success of different Tweets.

But these social media Metrics don’t function in isolation. A business needs to understand where its customers are coming from to be able to fully evaluate the success of its social media outreach work.

For this, you need cross-reference with Metrics from all your other media outlets, including Email Marketing and, of course, your own website.

Customer satisfaction

Have you noticed how some restaurant chains ask you to fill out the “quick questionnaire” on the back of your receipt? This isn’t just a way to harvest your email address, it’s also an important part of their business strategy.

Pizza Hut, for example, even offer you a two-for-one offer if you fill-in their questionnaire – it’s that important to them!

Online marketplaces, like eBay, will constantly remind you to give Feedback to everyone you’ve transacted with – many of whom are small (and sometimes not-so-small) businesses, using eBay as the platform for their sales.

And when’s the last time you booked a hotel room and weren’t asked to offer a star rating?

How does your business measure customer satisfaction?

There are several different methods you can employ – these questionnaire surveys is one way, encouraging online reviews is another, follow-up emails asking “How was it?” yet a third.

Customer feedback can help you improve your business – sharpening-up the things that aren’t quite right, celebrating the things that are.

Do we really need to explain why satisfied customers can become repeat customers, and why that is great for your business?  Thought not.

You can’t really Beta Test a business – because people are unlikely to volunteer to use your service, then report back their findings, just because you ask. Instead, you have to go to full Roll-Out and see how it works in the wild.

Any or all of these Quality Metrics will give you ways to monitor how you’re doing, both in spreading the word about your service, and in providing that service.

They can then form the basis of much deeper and more arcane calculations – such as CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) – which are crucial Metrics in helping a successful business Scale onto the next level.

The optimistic future of social

Which Quality Metrics you choose to use, and quite how you act upon the secrets they reveal, will be down to each individual business-owner.

The important thing to remember, when looking at any of these Metrics, is that (with the possible exception of Customer Satisfaction) they are each quantifying a measurable result, which can be presented as a table of numbers, or a graph.

But your customers are people, and people are complicated. There is much more to us than simply a column of numbers.

At the very least, you need to cross-reference these numbers, to excavate useful information about the habits of your customers.

Some argue that simple Likes and Shares are the equivalent of a sugar rush – empty calories that give you a quick buzz, but don’t do you any actual good.

Quality Metrics, on the other hand, give you objective and qualitative information that can help you understand your audience and improve your business.

Business training courses used to tell us that 70% of our marketing spend was wasted, but there was no way of knowing which 70%. Well, that is no-longer the case.

Used properly, these Quality Metrics can show you exactly what works, for whom and, from that, you can likely extrapolate why.

It’s hard to measure on a day-by-day, click-by-click basis. Advertising has always been an incremental process. But that’s okay, because most businesses do not supply a product or service that customers need every day. Most businesses supply a once-in-a-while purchase.

Therefore, you need to keep your name out there, constantly; building your Brand, maintaining your levels of Awareness so that, when that once-in-a-while moment arrives – the Prospect will think of you and – ker-ching – they become a Customer.

And the only reliable way to boost any and all of these Metrics is to produce consistently high quality Content that builds a community.

You need to Engage, Educate and Entertain every day. There are no shortcuts.

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