Depth Is Important, We Are Obsessing Over The Wrong Data

By @TheMarkDalton

In the world of social media we are obsessed with numbers. The number of followers, the number of likes, the number of shares, the number of impressions. Numbers do matter but in the grand scheme of things we are obsessing over the wrong data.

Most of us want to go wide so we can brag about the number of Twitter followers we have or the number of Instagram followers we have. “Look at how big we are on social media, we have 10k Twitter followers!” Of course if you follow 11k on Twitter then you have lost that fight and are doing no more than gaming the system but I have discussed that in depth before.

The numbers that I think are important? The number of comments, retweets, shares and my own engagement score (which could always be better and something I work on every day). I care little for follower numbers or impressions and you shouldn’t either.

Number of followers

If there is one thing we like on social media is to have a nice number of followers. Lets admit that, we always want more because on social media we share for the attention. Nothing wrong with that, but here is the thing – How we get social media followers is somewhat going against focusing on attention.

Followers can be everything or they can be nothing, that is dependant on engagement. You can go wide and bag a huge number of followers on social media. That doesn’t mean shit if they are not engaging with you and sharing your content.

There is a misconception that the less numbers of followers you have then you are considered to be “irrelevant” which just boggles the mind. Someone with 10 followers can be noticed and can be just as influential as someone with 50,000 followers. All it takes is one tweet to hit the sweet spot and you are away.

You are only ever one piece of content away from going viral. What is key is the number of people consuming your content. What is the CTR like? How many people click links? How many people look at your content? How many people actually consume your content? How many are converted to a paying customer. That is the real beefy stuff you should be looking for.

Look, lets say you have 100 followers and someone who has 40k followers on Twitter says to you, “I will retweet one if your tweets and help you out here, one piece of content each day this week. I will retweet it to my followers and you will be away.”

The thing is, that person can retweet that piece of content and you could get zero engagement on it still and maybe a handful of followers. So how much value have you got out of that exchange? Not a whole lot. The value to people following is in the quality of the content you create.

Social media has swung a different way over the years. A few years ago someone with 50k followers would tweet out: “Hey go hit up my buddy (username here) and give him a follow!” and you would gain a few thousand followers from it, now you would be lucky to get 50 followers and the same applies to social platforms across the board.

Now it is dominated by aggressive follower tactics. You follow me and I follow you, that is why you see accounts with 100k followers while they follow 70k accounts. Or you see people with the numbers completely the wrong way where they have 100k followers and follow 120k. You also have the dirty and annoying follow/unfollow tacticians.

They drop a follow, wait for you to follow back and then they go unfollow you again. It works but FYI it is actually a breach of Twitter’s terms of service so if you get caught then its all on you.

Number of impressions

This is a metric people like to obsess over for all the wrong reasons. It is probably the metric that I hate the most. There is an incorrect notion that the number of impressions correlates to success. Great, we got a million Twitter impressions last month, but how much engagement did we have. How many retweets, how many comments, how many page views?

What are the numbers for the data that actually matters? Impressions is one of the most inaccurate forms of data going in my opinion. You get people who say “20,000 people saw my pre-roll ad on YouTube!” You mean the 30 second pre-rolls we can’t skip and everyone hates?

More than likely what actually happened was that person went to a different tab while the pre-roll was playing or looked at their phone. “Look at how good the click through ration is on our pop up ad!” No, what more than likely happened is the pop up appeared on a mobile device with a tiny x to close it.

With how fat our thumbs our we end up accidentally clicking the pop up and then hating that company. The analytics don’t always tell the full story, particularly with impressions. Because it is easy enough to rack up impressions, it ends up being a nice number to look at but it doesn’t always tell the full story.

Go deep

One thing I have been learning over the past year now is to go deep, not wide. I don’t give a shit how many people follow me on Twitter. I really don’t. What I care about is what the page view numbers look like, how many people converted from social. Did they follow up after visiting the site for more, are they interested in my service?

If they engaged I make sure to engage back, sometimes that can be just in the form of liking their comment or indeed replying to their comment. Everything I do now is about the attention. So I know that Twitter has value but it also has a noise problem and organic reach is hard to come by. You could have 200 followers on Instagram and 3,000 on Twitter, chances are you will have better engagement on Instagram due to the noise problem on Twitter.

Instagram has great organic reach, Snapchat has great organic reach. The quality of the content and where you are sharing it is crucial.

A note on Twitter CTR

Just a final note on Twitter click through ratios. We know that link clicks on Twitter are hard to come by, people on Twitter now re-share links without sometimes clicking on them.

Having a big following on Twitter has value if it is an engaged following. Something that most people now are not building because it is insanely hard to do on Twitter. What I mean by an engaged following is whenever you tweet something there are multiple shares and comments. I mentioned aggressive following tactics above when on Twitter. Interesting to note that when you employ aggressive following tactics then your CTR on Twitter gets exponentially worse because the audience is not as engaged.

Why are they not as engaged? Because you followed for a follow or you employed an aggressive follow and then unfollow tactic. This is simple data, Adweek ran a test a number of years ago and found that the more followers there were then the more engagement suffered.

Given that this test was conducted a number of years ago, and Twitter’s noise problem has gotten worse in recent times, the CTR has declined since when this research was conducted. More recent tests by Columbia University and French National Institute found that 60% of links share on Twitter are never click on. They looked at the big players, BBC, Huffington Post, CNN, New York Times and Fox News.

Some food for thought, the sad reality is that a lot of content will strike out on Twitter, the platform still has value of course but some of the tactics you are using to grow and think you are a big deal are not actually as good tactically as you may think. Attention, market in the year you live in.

Run your account the way you want to, tweet about things you are passionate for. I’m sharing social media and business content but I’m also tweeting like crazy about Man UTD, Patriots and other random bits and pieces which have nothing to do with social. Then let people decide if they want to follow or not, you are not looking for a social media audit. So do you, roll how you want to roll and anyone who moans about how you do it, show them the door.