An eyeball is an eyeball is an eyeball. Falser words were never spoken. Every time I hear someone brag about the success of their digital creative by pointing simply to the number of fans they have on Facebook as proof, I want to poke mine out. Sure, determining the impact (and value) of “engagement” with digital content in social media is still tricky, but when it comes to measuring exposure to content through social media campaigns, old rules still apply – the quality of eyeballs can’t be overlooked.
A recent post column in AdAge (Sorry, but Counting Facebook ‘Fans’ or Video Views Won’t Help Your Brand), correctly identifies a troublesome practice that too many marketers follow – using topline metrics like the quantity of Facebook fans or video views as the only measures of success rather than also considering the quality of these impressions and engagements. It’s this question of quantity versus quality on which the effective analysis of social media impact hinges.
A look at our analysis of traditional media metrics is instructive. We needn’t necessarily change how we look at data when it comes to examining quality of impressions. Neilson and other auditing systems allow us to look at demographic information to see how efficient our ads have been in reaching the desired target audience in traditional media. In much the same way, many of the major social media platforms now offer a tremendous amount of data about users who engage with our content. Facebook and YouTube insights offer demographic information on fans as well as viewers of ads. Twitter has been the slowest to offer robust analytics, but recently announced intentions to do so in the near future.
The Ad Council’s Anti-Steroids campaign offers a great example of how social media analytics offer a more thorough picture of the efficiency of social media outreach. The campaign, which first launched three years ago, included a Facebook page in addition to broadcast PSAs. At first, the majority of fans on Facebook were mothers or advocates – not teens, who were the actual target audience. We decided to take the next phase of the campaign entirely digital, and launched a more robust outreach program surrounding the Facebook fan page. We were heartened to see the fan counts rise as we promoted the campaign, but after looking at the analytics, we were even more thrilled to see that we had succeeded in getting the RIGHT fans, not just soccer moms and anti-doping experts. A deeper look at the insights was necessary to tell the story that topline fan counts couldn’t.
Of course, the mere act of “liking” on Facebook has become so easy that it doesn’t necessarily indicate a deep consumer connection with your page or brand. However, in exposure terms, when fans “like” your page, you can then message to then directly on their newsfeed – clearly the importance of making sure you are attracting the right fans is paramount.
In the end, the quality vs. quantity debate is decidedly not a zero sum game. Maximizing reach to eyeballs is never a bad thing in and of itself, but in order to truly know how useful those eyeballs are, a deeper look into the data is needed. Thankfully, free tools are at our disposal. We must avoid the temptation to focus solely on headline worthy stats. Alone, they don’t tell much of a story at all.