When you want to monitor the visibility of content about your brand, it’s tempting to start counting the amount of times that given articles were liked, shared, or retweeted. Unfortunately, reality shows that these metrics have little to do with the real number of people who read the content. If you’re counting likes, you’re probably wasting time, and money.

 

One of the most prevalent ways to measure the popularity of online content is to check their social media impact. We love counting likes, shares, comments, retweets and the like, and hoping that our content gets “viral”. The social networks themselves make a fortune out of getting us to promote content on their platforms, so we can get more visibility and there are plenty of marketing platforms whose only goal is to check the popularity of certain content on social media.

The truth, however, is that social media meters tell very little about the true performance of the content. People can be liking, commenting, or even sharing…but are they reading anything that is written there? Are they getting the message?

It seems the answer is no. You can get lots of “buzz” for a particular piece of content, but not translate it into traffic to the webpage, not to speak about conversions. This applies for both organic reach and paid reach.

The problem of the true value of paid reach on social media is ardent. A number of serious researches have already shown the bluff behind social media page visibility. But let’s not speak about the number of followers of pages – we are here to talk about content, and how your content does on social media.

The problem continues also here: promoting content on social media is basically a Russian roulette. Our experience with promoting content shows that all social networks have problems of disproportion between the results that they report, and what we witness in practice. What they measure as “engagement” and what we got in terms of the number of people reading your content are two separate worlds. Take the example of two posts from our blog, which we promoted via Facebooks ads: for one promoted post, while Facebook registers 213 “clicks”, Google Analytics only registers 88 visits from the ad (a little more than 1/3). For another post, while Facebook reports 634 clicks, Google Analytics registers only 178 visits (less than 1/3).

Facebook has a bunch of explanations for this discrepancy, but we find them hardly reliable (for example, Facebook claims that Google Analytics may count only last-click referrals while we know that this is not the case). But the truth is that Facebook is even in a decent situation, comparing to other social networks: on our Twitter campaigns for the same blog posts, discrepancies were unbelievable: for one tweeted post, while Twitter reported 744 clicks, we registered only 65 visits to the website (less than 10%), and for the second post, Twitter reported 999 clicks, and we registered…65 views (15 times less!!). The reason for this is simple: Twitter counts every type of click on the tweet as a click – clicks on the picture, hashtag, tags, anything. To make it worse, these “click” numbers do not include other types of engagement, such as retweets or following your page – meaning that if you add the numbers of engagements, the discrepancy is even bigger. We paid to get one thing – more people reading our content – and ended up getting something different and irrelevant for our needs.  

And when social networks do end up sending traffic to your content, and someone actually clicked on the link and got to your website, what kind of traffic is it? According to a test by SimpleBudget, Facebook traffic had a 98% bounce rate and an average of 6 seconds on a page.

The bottom line is clear: even if you are investing hundreds of dollars on promoting content, you are probably not increasing the visibility of your content. You get likes, shares, and comments, but nobody, is in fact, reading the content you wanted to promote. What is, then, the value of these likes? You make the math…

The problem is less acute when it comes to the organic reach of your content – for the simple reason that organic posts are free, so you don’t feel you spent so much money for nothing. But it is still a problem: first of all, because the organic reach of social media posts is constantly decreasing, so at one point or another, you’re going to have to consider paid reach (which, as we have shown, is probably not worth your money). Second of all, because, paid or free, people continue to count “likes” as a relevant metric of visibility and engagement. Why do they do it, despite all the warnings? Probably because it’s the easiest way to count, and also the easiest way to show flattering results. Take the success of a tool like BuzzSumo, currently one of the most popular tools in online content marketing (we also use it) – most of its success can be attributed to the fact that people love patting themselves on the shoulder after counting the amount of shares their content got.

But fellows, this is a hard but necessary lesson – despite the temptation (and we know it’s tempting), stop counting those likes. They mean nothing. Most people like and share without even reading the content. When monitoring and estimating the popularity of your content online, don’t think about insignificant social media pseudo-engagement. Look for the real, in-depth reads and conversations about your content.

That’s where the real action is. 

 

Stop counting likes and look for the real reads with Boost the News!