When social networks became prevalent in households across the nation and organizations began using them for marketing, communication and customer service efforts, many business leaders thought it was the answer to their sales prayers.
"We need a Facebook page!"
"Let's make a viral video!"
"I want a million Twitter followers!"
What everyone failed to remember, however, is there is no such thing as overnight success, no silver bullet, no golden ticket. Yes, we have new tools, but we still have to build relationships with human beings who need to trust us enough to buy our products or services, and no amount of social media fans or followers will change that.
But because we love big numbers, we all began to focus on those social media numbers—those vanity metrics. Because surely if we have more than 2,500 social shares or Twitter followers or Facebook likes, our cash flow woes would soon be over.
With the help of a mention by Buffer—a social media management app—the article went a little viral.
As the blogger, I was really excited about the more than 2,500 social mentions I got—it felt really good to see that kind of number. But did it mean I'm any closer to achieving my business goals?
What the Data Shows
Before Buffer highlighted the blog post, there were 908 visitors to the Spin Sucks page and people spent an average of six minutes reading my article. If you pay attention to your analytics, these kinds of numbers are good, particularly for a content-heavy site. You want people to spend time with your content, and six minutes is a long time.
After the Buffer mention, there were an additional 1,019 visitors. This is great, assuming those people are in my target market and also complete a call to action, such as subscribing to my blog.
But the average time these new visitors spent reading the article dropped by a minute, and the bounce rate increased (not good).
Overall, there were nearly 2,000 visitors in five days, with an average time spent on the page of more than five minutes. There were 12 new subscribers to my blog, which means that most of the more than 1,000 new visitors either weren't qualified or our call to action wasn't clear enough (or some combination of the two).
What's also interesting is that the comments on that piece increased, but most were from salespeople, including several from people who sell software that helps bloggers capture blog post ideas and develop content, which was a plea to our readers to buy their products. This is very atypical for the Spin Sucks community.
Uncover the Truth in the Numbers
Numbers alone can't give you the sales you're looking for. But the data you collect can offer some key insights:
- While vanity metrics are just that—an ego boost—social proof is very important. People see big numbers and think, "Wow! They must really know what they're doing."
- While you work to provide social proof, there should also be a strategic reason those people visit your site. What do you want them to do? Have a clear call to action so they know exactly what they're supposed to do when they get to your site, read your blog post, visit your Facebook page and so on.
- More than 2,500 social shares does not equal the same number of visitors. People often share because they like the title of your post and think it'll make them look smart, but 25 percent don't actually click on the link before they share.
- All those unqualified leads hurt your averages. Yes, averages are lies, but just by comparing the top two analytics screen grabs, you can see it was harmful.
- It's smart to test your content through organizations such as Buffer or Outbrain. The costs are minimal, and it will give you benchmark data you can use to grow your visitors.
There are a lot of ways that social media content distribution can find new audiences, increase your subscribers and generate new leads. But they must bring the right people in—otherwise, those big social numbers are just lies.
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