What Does This Mean to Me, Laura?


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What Does This Mean to Me, Laura?

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social media

You’re being forced to abandon vanity metrics. That’s a good thing.

22nd October 2020

For as long as I’ve been writing about social media, one of the most common questions I’ve gotten is:

“What do we measure?”

Social media experts have been debating that question, well…probably longer than I’ve been writing about social media.

For many libraries, administrators have often focused on the number of likes and comments. Granted, these metrics are easy to track. But that’s part of the problem:  many engagement metrics, especially likes, represent a very low level of actual engagement on the part of a post’s viewer.

Mark W. Schaefer, in his book The Content Code, contended even back in 2015 that these kinds of measurements were not especially useful; the gold standard, he argued, is how many times a post is shared. If a piece of content is good enough to share with friends or family, that’s a better indicator of quality and engagement. It’s certainly less passive an action than simply reacting to a post.

What we’re seeing now, though represents a huge shift in how even the social media platforms themselves are viewing low-level (often referred to as “vanity”) metrics. While many organizations and businesses have used these as a benchmark for brand recognition and popularity, the social platforms themselves have begun to realize that there are problems inherent in chasing likes and reactions.

But this obsession is having a negative impact on our mental health and can actually stymie the free flow of engagement. We go along with the crowd, click a button and stop engaging in a meaningful way. Deep Patel

Instagram has removed the number of likes on a post from the public view (whomever posted the content can still seem them, however). It seems likely that Facebook will follow suit, since Facebooks owns Instagram. Even Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, has publicly stated that follower and like counts are meaningless and he would de-emphasize them, if he could go back and do Twitter over.

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • Marketers (and yes, libraries) need to stop focusing on vanity metrics. This is not something that will make many people happy, because vanity measurement is significantly easier to figure out. We’re going to have to start look at things like sentiment analysis (how negative or positive an engagement is), who’s doing the engaging (demographic analysis) and, yes, how many shares.
  • If your library hasn’t already had a focus on content marketing, it’s going to need to start…yesterday would have been a good time!  A major part of content marketing is having data to help you with understanding your library’s audiences and personas thoroughly. Having this information will help increase all of the important (not vanity) metrics.
  • If you’re not sure who your audiences actually are, then targeting your library’s content becomes extremely difficult. I’ve often told workshop participants: “Stop throwing things at the digital wall to see what sticks!” When your library thinks that “adults” or “kids” are an audience, it has a lot of work to do. Those are broad demographics, not audiences or personas. Which adults? What are their pain points? Their needs? Their wants? If you can’t sufficiently answer these questions, then you’re throwing things at the digital wall.