Avoiding Vanity Statistics: How to Really Know if Social Media is Working

I have several clients who spent their spare time (haha — like any of us have that!) combing over their social media stats. Their business confidence lives and dies on how many people they’ve attracted to their Facebook page, how many “likes” they have, and how many new Twitter followers they’ve accumulated that week.

The problem? These numbers don’t really matter. They’re just “vanity statistics.”

Vanity statistics are the numbers that make us feel the love. If 300 Twitter followers are good, 3000 must be better, right? Not necessarily. Yes, the more followers you have, the more people you can theoretically dash messages off to — sales offers, information, branding messages, etc. However, like all marketing, if you’re sending messages out to people who don’t really care, that message isn’t going to be very effective.

There are some statistics that are crucial to measuring your social media effectiveness. If you must hang your hat on stats — and who doesn’t love stats? — these are the ones (and, yes, they can be just as loving as the vanity stats.)

Google Analytics — Referrals

Okay, take a look in your Google Analytics for me. I know they just changed the interface and that it can be a bit scary in there, but never fear. This will be quick and painless. On the left, click into “Traffic Sources” and then into “Sources.” From that list, choose “Referrals.”

This is where the big money is.

Okay, let’s look at the centre table for the Facebook referrals — these are all the people that came to your website from Facebook. Look for both facebook.com and m.facebook.com (their mobile site.) Remember, that the default in Google Analytics is to show stats for the previous month (look at the top, right-hand corner of the page to see what date range your stats are for — change this range if you’s like.)

Are you happy with these Facebook numbers? They probably feel less loving than the vanity stats, don’t they? But these are the people who are actually interested in you and your product or service. This is the statistic worth striving to increase.

Just as an aside, Twitter shows its referrals as both twitter.com and t.co in Analytics. As far as I’ve seen, LinkedIn shows as linkedin.com.

Why Are Referrals Important?

Well, unless you are selling product directly off your Facebook page or Twitter account, your website is where the sales take place. Whether your potential client is gathering information about you and your business or entering in a credit card and choosing their shipping option, your website is where the money changes hands. You should almost always be driving traffic to your website.

How Do I Drive Traffic to My Website?

Make your website exciting to visit through blog posts, contests, value added products, and other dynamic content. Then? Talk about these exciting things on social media. Encourage people to visit your content. Use snappy wordsmithing and tease about what they’ll find if they click through. Make sure that once they’re at your site, you have something for them to do — sign up for a newsletter or give up their email to download a white paper or coupon. Make it fun! Even industries that are traditionally thought of as less fun can kick it up a little. Be creative.