It’s possible to have hundreds of thousands – even millions – of Facebook and Twitter followers and not sell much. The focus we see so often on “followers” can disguise the fact that followers aren’t necessarily buyers. They may not even be particularly engaged with your brand. A number of things can bring a nice warm feeling but don’t necessarily translate into business success:
- Page views
- Number of followers
- Downloads of free reports
Most businesses that have an online presence track these metrics, but the fact is that they say little or nothing about how well your business is really doing.
So tracking online action is a waste of time?
No; tracking most online action is a waste of time. We’re going to call metrics that do no good “vanity metrics” and we’ll come back to that below.
Enter engagement metrics. The point of metrics should be that they give you indicators of how well your business is doing in the only thing that matters: turning visitors into paying customers. What you should track is the kind of activity that ultimately converts to sales – “ultimately” because, however frustrating this may be, the sale will not necessarily come on the first, second or third visit. There are many such activities; among them, and relatively easy to track, are:
- Repeat views
- Number of comments left by visitors
- Number of times content is shared
- Conversion rate.
It’s not just a matter of tracking numbers, though. What matters is which numbers can help you understand what you need to change on your site and track the effectiveness of the change afterwards?
When it comes to changes, be thinking always about A/B testing. Does the page get greater engagement with a video without? If with a video, then with this video or that video? What difference do guest bloggers make? How about something as simple as font and color changes?
All tracking and all testing takes time, concentration and money, all of which are often times in short supply – especially in SMEs and one woman/one man bands. If you’re going to track your efforts, then you need to forget the vanity metrics and monitor engagement. Vanity metrics can make you think you’re doing well when you’re not, never mind the fact that they can make you think your marketing department or subcontractor is doing well when it isn’t. Most of all, vanity metrics are measuring things that have no impact at all on your bottom line.
Forty-six years ago, Robert Townshend in Up the Organization asked: “If you’re not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing here?” It’s still a good question. Profit comes from knowing what you’re doing and that includes knowing what you’re doing wrong, so that you can fix it. Engagement metrics will help you gather that information. Vanity metrics won’t.
Next week, we’ll talk about three engagement metrics that really matter, what they mean, how you measure them and what you can do about them. The three are:
- Conversation rate (no, not conversion – conversation)
- Amplification rate
- Applause rate
See you then!