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Something to think about... / blog
Rethinking How You Measure Social

Written by on November 20, 2015

The always wonderful Avinash Kaushik published an article titled: 'How To Suck At Social Media: An Indispensable Guide For Businesses'. It is a delightful read that challenges how you think about social media, which is built on his measurement model for social activity.

  • Conversation Rate: is a ratio of comments per post (or video or tweet or pin etc.) to overall Followers (or Page Likes). Is what you are saying interesting enough to spark the most social of all things: a conversation?
  • Amplification Rate: is the ratio of shares (or retweets or repins etc.) per post to overall Followers (or Page Likes). Is what you are saying so incredible and of value that I'll stamp my brand on it and forward it to everyone I know?
  • Applause Rate: is the ratio of favorites (or post likes or +1s or hearts etc.) per post to overall Followers (or Page Likes). Do I think the content you've posted is interesting, even if I won't bless it with my stamp and forward it on?
  • Economic Value: is the value of short and long-term revenue and cost savings. Do we make any money from being on Social Networks?

Obviously, the last one, economic value, is the most important one. We have all seen brands focus on the latest social gimmick to drive up reach and engagement, which obviously didn't cause any real effect.

It's easy to drive activity. But you are basically wasting money if you don't match this to an intent that leads to an economic output.

I would like to add another one, though:

  • Connection Rate: How large a share of your audience that have chosen to connect with you over the long term, via social media, email or any other channel where this can be done? And, similarly, how good are you at getting your new audience to connect?

The reason is that you also want to measure how effective you are at getting people to stay connected with you. However, I wouldn't just measure this in terms of social media. I would measure this across all the channels you have. For instance, email is a great way to connect with people. You might even want to look at retention rates of your website. Or, if you have a webshop, your customer return rate is a critical element in how connected people are to you.

For publishers, of course, renewal rates is the key factor to identifying how people connect. And, if you can measure it on a per reader basis, how often people read an article is very important as well.

But, let's get back to social, and let's take a step back and ask the question: Should you even be focusing on social media at all?

The answer to this question is: By default? No.

Okay, this requires a bit of an explanation.

We know (which is easily measured) that the real power of social doesn't come from what you do on your own social pages but what other people do about you.

It's word of mouth, right?

Note: The exception to this is YouTube and Instagram, but I will get back to those.

It doesn't really matter if you post something on your Facebook page. Only a fraction of your followers will see that, and only a tiny percentage of your fans will engage with you and drive exposure.

What really matter what your customers and fans are posting about you on their own, on their social pages and profiles.

It's the amplification rate that matters. Not the amplification rate of what you do on your own social channels, but the amplification rate of how people talk about your products everywhere.

So, before you start to think about your own social performance, look at your overall amplification rate. If people are not already excited about your products and are sharing things about them on their own, you are not going to change that by having a Facebook Page or a Twitter Profile.

The problem you have is not with social. The problem is that your product, your identity, your brand and your purpose aren't exciting or valuable enough for people to share.

You need to fix that problem long before you start to fix your own social channels.

Why is YouTube and Instagram different?

YouTube and Instagram stands out in front of the rest because they both lack one vital social element. They don't offer sharing.

All other social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest are based on the concept that when you share a post other people can then reshare it.

On YouTube and Instagram, you can't do that. Okay, sure, you can link to an Instagram post on Twitter, and embed a YouTube video on your site, but there is no on-site sharing. After having watched a great YouTube video you can't say, "This was great, let me reshare it on my YouTube page as well".

In other words, YouTube and Instagram have no amplification rate. They have conversion, applause and connection rates. But no amplification.

This makes these two channels very different from the rest. YouTube and Instagram are far more about how you influence people to come and connect with you than any other factor. Each post has to be more focused and valuable.

Note: And it's yet another reason why YouTube and Facebook videos are two entirely different concepts.

One of the worst examples of this is to look at Amazon.

Amazon, of course, being this gigantic warehouse of random products, already has a problem with social in that it has no focus for people to be inspired by. This is seen clearly on their YouTube page.

You will also notice that each video is designed to be a short, snack-like thing, which I'm sure some social media guru has told them is perfect for Millennials and sharing.

The problem, of course, is that this isn't what Millennials wants. If you actually look at the trends, you will find that Millennials have a higher baseline for value than older people. Yes higher!

But mostly, on YouTube, you can't re-tube a video, so no sharing. But Amazon apparently thinks YouTube works the same way as Facebook, even though YouTube has no amplification rate. And look at the result. Their videos score absolutely abysmal with every single metric... and yet, they keep doing it.

It's kind of the same on Instagram. Here, of course, the length is always the same (one photo), but again, the value has to be higher. On Facebook you can sometimes drive social engagement with snacks. On Instagram, you won't make any difference unless each picture stands out.

It's time to think about social in a smarter way, and to measure it in a smarter way too. We are long past the point where you can just think of social as something you just do by default, or measure the effect based on a simple point of engagement.

Before you do anything, look at whether your products and brands generate any word-of-mouth by itself, and, if not, that's the problem you have to fix first. You then look at the combination of your conversation, amplification, applause and connection rates, which you then compare with the overall economic value.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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