social media success is about the conversation in 2014

News Flash: It’s no longer 2012.  Well, it’s not even still 2013.  Oh, wait, we were two years behind?!

Yes.

When I say it’s no longer 2012 I am referring to the fact that the landscape of social and digital media has been rapidly changing, but brands and industries everywhere are still looking at social media data for success the same way we did a few years back.  Last year, 2013, was about a very gradual shift in the way brands analyzed social media data, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it changed.

This is the year that brands will start feeling differently about those numbers they’ve been reporting on for years to the higher ups in the company, to tell the story of a successful campaign or series of posts and content, and user interaction.

Those action-oriented data points, anointed as the gold standard for social media analytics and reporting are getting less and less important.  I’m talking about those numbers we’ve watched like really crazy hawks: “likes,” comments, replies, mentions, +1s, favorites, and even clicks.  You may have noticed I left shares and retweets off this list.  Well, that’s because those are still actually important, along with revines and other actions where a user multiplies your reach by sharing your content with other users.  That’s spreading the word and exposure and expands your content to new eyeballs.  Important.

That being said, the action points I list above that were so hot from 2009 – 2013 should not be so hot as we get deeper in to 2014.  Those are silly little actions that really mean very little for your brand.  There is so much crap filling up everyone’s feeds and timelines now; the value of seeing that a friend “liked” something is much lower now than it was a few years ago.  This also goes for total audience page likes as well – if you’re still bragging about reaching certain milestones there, well, good luck.  We all know how Facebook has worked their algorithms lately – making it harder and harder for brands to get their content seen by their own audience.  If you promote a post you can target non-fans anyway, so why would you need to keep buying a big audience of “likes”?  It will only hurt your engagement rates, and cost you money that you could’ve at least spent showing your content to the right people.

Back to the data. animal facebook like

This year, social media success should be about conversations.  Who is talking about your brand?  Where are they located?  How are they talking about your brand?  Are there influencers you could tap in to to give this conversation a boost through their own native channels?  Share of voice is important as well as sentiment.  The where and how and why people are talking about your brand will go a lot deeper into building success stories in 2014.  I would much rather show a report showcasing that our brand, through the use of a specific campaign, hashtag, keywords, etc… was talked about in 85 countries, by 100,000 users across different social networks and blogs, reached 10 million unique users, and in turn our brand saw a 10% spike in sales during the month of the campaign.  Not that our posts got 1,500 likes.

This is turning social and digital content into something real.  “Likes” are not real.  That is someone sitting on their computer, phone, tablet, watch, glasses or whatever else and decided to click a button that gives a thumbs up to your piece of content. They like it and move on.  You want people sharing your content, talking about your content, generating that buzz that is actually meaningful and translates into a bigger story.

It’s 2014.  If you’re still striving to hit KPIs including specific goals for “likes” and favorites and clicks on posts – you’re living in 2012.  Everything else with digital media changes every year, month, and sometimes week – so why shouldn’t the way we report the data change as well?

Side note: There are many tools (mostly paid) out there that do a great job of tracking the whole conversation across many platforms and channels, all over the world.  I am not here to promote one or the other, but just wanted to make a note – these do exist, and some are really great tools, providing visual representations of your brand being talked about in real-time, all stemming from your social and digital campaigns and content.  Allowing you to report something real, and not a number of thumbs up.

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