Social Media Paradox: Number of Likes & Followers Don’t Mean Much, and How Can I Get More?

J0182866“Likes” and “followers” remain two of the top metrics that PR pros look to when they track their social media campaigns. Unfortunately, the law of diminishing returns kicked in on those indices a while ago. As Don Bartholomew, senior VP, digital & social media research of Ketchum puts it, those metrics mean very little, but everyone wishes their numbers were higher.

In an effort to get some intelligence on where the PR measurement pendulum is now swinging, PR News asked some of this year’s PR Measurement Hall of Fame inductees for their take on some of the social media metrics that brands and organizations are starting to track that go beyond likes and followers.

This year’s honorees will be inducted into PR News' PR Measurement Hall of Fame (HOF) during our annual PR Measurement Conference, which takes place April 8 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Here’s a taste of how some of the measurement HOF inductees are helping their companies and clients move beyond likes and followers.

> Don Bartholomew, senior VP, digital & social media research, Ketchum

Likes and followers are good examples of what I call vanity metrics. They mean very little, but everyone wishes their numbers were higher. Most progressive brands and organizations are, at a minimum, doing a good job of capturing engagement metrics like interaction rate, retweets/1,000 followers or virality. Many organizations are trying to drive more toward outcomes—are we shaping opinions, attitudes, beliefs or behavior. Tracking conversions, both micro and macro, is also common with more progressive efforts.

> Pauline Draper-Watts, executive VP, global lead, measurement and analytics, Edelman Berland

We need to change our language to relate better to business. The reality is that there is no value to a follower in and of itself. What is important is how you build that relationship and engage with that follower. Increasingly, I am seeing the need for engagement metrics, growth metrics and a better understanding of influencers and their role. We need to be smarter and focus on those who not only carry influence but also spark amplification.

> Angela Jeffrey, managing director U.S., Salience Insight

Brands and organizations are well into measuring the levels of engagement, quality of conversations and influence of the person/s posting or blogging.  More important, they are tracking the sources and intensity of opinions and advocacy, and ultimately, the impact and value of social media alongside other forms of communication.  Ultimately, the impact and value of social media can only be determined when comparing it back to overall objectives and business outcomes.

A roundtable discussion with this year’s PR Measurement HOF winners will appear in the March 31 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.

Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1