Numbers + Thinking = Better Numbers

We’ve said before that numbers are important, despite our preference for warm fuzzies. There are so many super delightful ways to measure progress, make effective improvements and more by keeping careful records and taking actions based on their analysis.

However! Numbers have limits. As easy as it may be to read a metric off a screen and say, “Hey we’re doing pretty well!” it’s not always that straightforward. Sometimes, they need a little common sense and even a few warm fuzzies to make a real impact.

Social media in particular provide us with many numbers that are intended to help us measure our success. These figures may be helpful, but they are most beneficial when paired with some serious thought. Here are a few instances where naked numbers just aren’t enough to trust:

  • Facebook and Twitter Followers. Yes, more followers are good. The goal of utilizing social media is to reach out to as many people as possible. But who are your followers? If you have 2,000 “likes” on Facebook but don’t get much quality engagement, how many of those “likers” are actually reading your posts? Do they have you hidden? Do they follow 3,000 pages and suffer from information overload?

There are also “bots” on Twitter that are actual “robot accounts” that just follow thousands of people simply to up their own numbers with the hope of attracting advertisers. Crazy, right? And when they’re following you (and believe us, some are!), they do you no good.

So instead of looking only at the number of “likes” and “followers” you have, measure your success with healthy interaction and real-life results. When you take a survey at your event, make sure “Facebook/Twitter” appears in the “How did you hear about this?” column. Ask your sponsors and volunteers the same question.

  • Think “Who,” Not “How Many.” We read a fascinating article recently about peak interaction hours for Facbook pages. The big surprise was that non-business hours saw the most clicks and responses, despite the fact that the most posts occurred during business hours.

Here’s the thing though: the very busiest time for interactions, according to this article, were between 11pm and 5am.

Say what?

If you are a local business or downtown organization or non-profit, the odds are against these night owls being your prime customers. Planning a family friendly event? Just because your link is clicked on the most at 2am does not mean that your target audience is seeing it most then.

So instead of looking at this data and thinking, “Gosh, I’d better start posting things to Facebook at midnight!” think about your audience. Want moms and dads seeing your posts? They are going to look at Facebook when they get to work, during their lunch break and right before they leave the calm of the office to dive back into their family’s schedule. So post then.

  • Facebook Impressions. Did’ja ever notice the number of impressions listed for each post on Facebook is often larger than your number of fans? This is because this number is calculated using some fancypants arrangement of numbers that is much more complicated than simply the number of people who have seen your post. It’s unclear if this simply means how many times a browser has loaded your post (whether viewed or not) or if “likes” and “shares” boost the number exponentially.

Facebook impressions are still helpful though, if used as a tool for judging the relative impact of one of your posts to the other. Do your conversational questions generate more impressions than posting articles? Do your morning posts have more impressions than your evening posts? Any more concrete assumptions gleaned from Facebook Impressions should be taken with a grain of salt.

The moral of the story is that all numbers on social media should be considered, but not worshipped. They should be analyzed, but are not to be taken to the bank. Just like everything else in social media, all of these metrics are new, and just like the basic framework of these platforms, they are best when explored, considered and then used in whatever way best fits each individual user’s needs.

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