Vanity metrics: what are they and why should I ignore them?

By March 12, 2014 No Comments

We had a saying back in my days as a print journalist that ‘two was a coincidence, three’s a trend’. Meaning that if we could only find two examples of separate individuals doing, producing or wearing a similar thing then we couldn’t write a story about it, but if we could find three then we could – what they were doing, producing or wearing was a ‘thing’.

Tapping into the zeitgeist is as much a marketer’s job as it is a lifestyle journalist’s. And you usually know there’s been a shift towards a new ‘thing’ when you hear several people drop the same phrase into conversation or, as in the case of several of the speakers at Social Media Week New York in February, into their talks. And they do it in such as way that assumes we’ve all been talking about this thing all the time, while nobody really knows who came up with the concept in the first place.

Quality not breadth

Such is the case with vanity metrics – a term used to describe the idea of getting as many Facebook likes and likers, Twitter followers or +1s as possible. But wait – wasn’t that one of the main goals of social media marketing? It might have been 12 months ago, but not now. Today, the focus is on quality not quantity, which is music to my content marketing ears because, just as when I wrote editorial for consumer magazines, I want people to really get something out of the content I produce – both the client and the audience. If I can produce a piece of top quality content that is targeted at the right audience and those people engage in some way then I’m a step closer to building a lasting relationship with them that’s going to translate into brand loyalty.

I mentioned in a previous blog that in his keynote interview at Social Media Week, Buzzfeed CEO and founder Jonah Peretti claimed that you can reach “too many people.” His point was that you’ve got to aim to get your content in front of the right audience because a ‘so what?’ response can actually be detrimental to your brand. Google algorithms now reward quality content, so if good SEO is your goal then taking the time to really think through a content strategy is going to pay dividends. And on social this means figuring out who you or your brand is going to be: is your content going to solve a need, establish you as a thought leader or be pure entertainment, or a bit of all three? Communicating with a clear strategy behind you is the best way to create a loyal following. 

Advocacy over awareness

Part of getting as many likes as possible was the belief that it creates brand awareness. If you are a new brand or company then social is a good way of creating awareness but the ultimate aim should be brand advocacy, where people are spreading the good word about you via their own networks. To help in your quest for brand advocates, it can sometimes help to reach out to influential bloggers who can help give your message ‘authority’.

At a time when there is still no concrete way to attach any ROI to a social media marketing campaign, the value of brands and companies using social platforms is still in their ability to foster relationships, which will drive traffic or keep you front of mind when a purchase decision is made. Why have a thousand people like you for the split second it takes to click that box then forget you, when with the right approach you can build an audience that comes back time and time again? These are the aims of a focused, long-term content marketing strategy.

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