Success in Social Media: The Path

How do you measure success in social media? I’ve been asked this many times during interviews, and I always answer the same way: any and all interactions that place your brand in a positive light. Many people might disagree with me and focus more an metrics and numbers, but if we look at the path social media marketing has taken in the past few years, you will see that the measure of success has shifted into a more subjective realm. Does that mean the metrics and numbers don’t matter? Of course they matter! That’s the point of marketing, isn’t it? But in social media, the marketing aspect has quickly shifted over to branding, presence, and overall engagement with your followers.

Let’s take a look at the original metric that social media marketers used to measure success: Followers. The more followers you had, the better, right? Having a huge number of Likes on Facebook means that people actively sought out your page, clicked the Like button, and would then receive news and updates whenever you post them. Well, at the time it was the only important metric you had.

Social media marketers then started to focus on creating viral content, and the measure of virality was the number of Likes and Shares a post received. In came the flood of clickbait titles, “Like if you agree” image macros, and “Share if you love your mother” posts. Companies wanted to know that their content was being consumed, or, with the changes to the Facebook algorithms, seen by their followers. We’re at the tail end of this practice now, and we’re quickly shifting over into forming direct, emotional connections. Frankly, I feel like this should’ve been where we started as social media marketers.

How do you create emotional connections with your followers? Just check out the tagline of this blog: Be more human. That the adage by which I formulate my social media strategies, and companies and brands should pay attention. Be more human. Just take a look at the first word in “social media”! It’s “social”! The more you advertise and broadcast to your followers, the faster they get fed up with your content, which means they’re more likely to just ignore you. When that happens, say goodbye to your organic reach, which means you pay more to advertise your content, which exacerbates your problem. Literally throwing your money away. People on social media don’t want to be bombarded by ads on a daily basis. To reach them, you have to become like one of them, which means using the social media site as it’s intended: to create connections with people on a personal level. The playing field is already set; you just have to play the game instead of trying to create your own rules!

Each social site has its own expectations of etiquette and behavior. On Tumblr, for example, you’re expected to have fun and not take yourself too seriously. On Instagram, you need to show of your staff and show everyone what you’re up to. On Facebook, you want to be the person starting conversations and share your opinions (just be careful about this part).

If you’re likeable to the point where people can relate to you, they will take the time out of their day to support you. So how do you measure success in social media? Be more human today.

Building Your Community

It’s not about how many “Likes” you have anymore. Anyone can build a page and get people to push a button, but the most important aspect of any Facebook Page is an active and enthusiastic community. What does it really say when a Page has 50,000 Likes with a mostly empty wall? Or even a wall where a majority of the posts come from the Page’s owner? It means that while you have fans in the barest definition of the term, they’ve “Liked” you and now they’ve forgotten you. It means what you’re pushing isn’t important enough to be part of their daily lives. Let’s focus on a few things that will improve the quality of your Page and possibly help foster social growth.

Post Content
What’s going into each of your posts? Deals? Coupons? “Where to buy” links? While you shouldn’t skimp on these marketing essentials, keep in mind that you don’t want to come across as an automated post bot. If all you do is solicit, how would you be different from a mindless machine programed to do a single task? You need to tease out the participants and entice them to join in the conversation. You need to let them know their voices are heard and that their opinions count. Don’t just post calls to action; post questions and surveys. Ask them what you should do!

When someone posts something on your wall, they’ve taken a very conscious step in reaching out, and it’s up to you to meet them part way. Responding to relevant content is easy, but to connect with someone or someones on a level that touches your personal lives, you need to understand your demographic. For example, the demographic for the company I work for is very much into sporting events. When the Ravens won the Superbowl this year, my first thought was to post a product we’ve named the “Raven”. Seize every opportunity to go beyond being a representative and show that there is a real person behind the username – a person who shares their interests.

Encourage Participation
The most important aspect of growing your community is to encourage your fans to post original content, and the way to do this is with incentive. It can be a tangible prize or something as simple as an “official” mention. The internet is a vast and populated place, and a chance to be in the spotlight is a very enticing one.

You can also draw in your audience with promise of perks that are exclusive to the most avid fans. One way to do this is with a memberships-only newsletter, which serves as a two-pronged benefit: you increase the number of people following you on social media channels, and you have better insight and analytics on your demographic.

Stay Active
Just because you’ve gathered a few thousand followers does not mean you can take a rest; your job is never finished. So long as your audience participates, you have to stay on the ball. Stay active, post often, and post quality content.

The End of Google Reader

google-reader-issuesMany of you may have already heard the news: Google Reader is shutting down due to a decline in users. Some of you might even be asking: “what is Google Reader, and why should I care?” Technically you don’t have to care if you’ve never used it, but it’s been an invaluable tool for me in my hunt for bigger and better jobs. Essentially it’s a tool built into your Google account that allows you to consolidate all your job search terms into one convenient reader that continually updates in real time. Job search sites like Indeed.com, Mediabistro, and Craigslist have included very convenient RSS Feed buttons in order to aid you in this endeavor. Simply type in your search, however broad or specific, and click the RSS link to add it to your reader. Once you have a bunch of feeds, you can create a folder labeled “Job Search” and drag all your feeds into it, then presto! You have job listings from all your favorite job sites in one convenient page! Simple, convenient, fantastic. But since not enough people are utilizing this tool, Google will be dismantling it and focusing their efforts elsewhere.

ReaderLuckily Google isn’t cutting us off cold turkey. You can still find the Reader under “More” though for a few days last week it was absent from the menu. The announcement was made on March 13th 2013, and the shut-down transitional period will happen over the next 3 months. During this time you can save your RSS feeds and use them in other readers that are still available.

While this may be a good move in a business sense, Google Reader’s demise might spell trouble for its current users. For many small publishers  like MG Siegler, it has been the lifeblood (or flower) of his traffic. He explains that Reader’s design may have been the reason for its failing: “The key element of Reader, of course, is that it allows readers to consume content without visiting a site if they choose to.” There may be a much larger user base than reported in Google’s metrics, but due to the overly convenient nature of its design, those metrics just could not be measured.

But don’t despair, RSS fans, because where one good feature shuts down, another will quickly fill the void. The top contender appears to be Feedly, who has now monetized this portion of the RSS world in the mobile app sector. Maybe Google Reader will come back one day. It’s hard to imagine that such a large and innovative company wouldn’t be able to make something this awesome work!