Month after month, as you tediously labor over the marketing report your boss will inevitably applaud or denounce at your next employee review, you can’t help but wonder, “so how do I unlock a cell on this damn spreadsheet, again?”
Second on your mind, of course, is last month’s performance.
And while numbers are looking good, there’s one you're particularly proud of this month - a 30% growth in social reach - and while you’re privately gushing over it, it holds no place here.
This is because historically, we’ve poo poo’d fluffy marketing metrics in favor of the harder, more sexier ones; things like traffic, leads, and conversion rates.
After all, these are the metrics that more directly correlate with the bottom line.
But what about those times when those fluffy metrics can actually help us as marketers understand the effectiveness of our decisions, or better yet, validate them?
The manner in which results are generated is just as important as the results themselves; therefore we’ve compiled this list of those times where it’s okay to gush over those seemingly pointless marketing metrics.
1) The Fluffy Metric: Blog Comments
Blog comments are often overlooked by busy marketers who are commonly preoccupied with quantitative performance-based numbers.
What they are failing to recognize is that comments have the ability to transform a one-sided offering of information into something more interactive. A comment can aim to challenge your subject matter, or reinforce your argument. The point being that a user's capability to interject their response to the content opens up the door for a greater conversation.
By building a conversation around your content, you are presented with an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your readers, and create more tailor-made content. With a more detailed understanding of their wants and needs as content consumers, you can begin to align your content with their way of thinking. If you find that your readers commonly present you with questions in terms of follow-up or clarification, for example, you should be using their inquires to guide blog topic generation.
With a content creation strategy that parallels the disposition of your audience, you can effectively increase the likelihood that your content will not only resonate well with your readers, but stir up meaningful dialogue as well.
Perhaps comments aren't that fluffy after all.
The Hard Metric: Search Rank/Views
While more concrete metrics like search rank may seem like a more sensible way to gauge the efficacy of your blog, there is room for the two metrics to co-exist. By all means, track your views and search rank, but don't lose sight of the impact commenting can have on these hard metrics.
If you want to see your search rank improve, create content that facilitates discussion amongst your community. The more engaged readers become with your content and the discussion it presents, the more frequently they will return to your page to follow-up. This results in increased page views, which has the ability to push your content up the page in terms of search rank.
Think of every comment that you receive as an individual endorsement for your business. As you continue to build out content that reflects your readers behavior, you will begin to grow the level of endorsements you receive. With increased support comes more opportunities to reach a wider audience. If your readers become more engaged with your content, they are more likely to share your posts with others, which will drive traffic back to your website and help you advance in search results.
2) The Fluffy Metric: The Retweet
Who doesn't love a retweet?
Being on the receiving end of a little RT action is best comparable to a pat on the back or the good old affirmation, "ya done good, kid." But what many marketers have yet to piece together is that a retweet can deliver us with much more than just an ego stroke.
When a follower retweets something that you've posted on Twitter, it means that they found it interesting enough to pass on to their followers. By passing it on to their followers, they have opened up the floor to an untapped audience that will then have the option to offer the information up to their reach. As a result, your content will then begin to gain social traction as it makes its way through the newsfeeds of an extended audience.
Take note of the tweets that really take off. If something has really caught on with your followers it would be logical to repurpose and reposition the subject matter in the future.
Take into consideration any feedback you may have received within the RT. Sometimes people will attach their opinion onto a retweet by simply including a statement like "Agreed!" or "Is there data to support this?" Harness this information and use it to improve your stance, or presentation of future content.
This is the type of nitty-gritty stuff that will help you pinpoint weak spots in your content, or reassure you of it's strength.
The Hard Metric: Clicks
If you're using HubSpot's social publishing tool, or a URL shortening tool like Bit.ly, it's likely that you are routinely checking to see how many clicks you've received on your social media posts. After all, more clicks means more traffic coming back to your website, right?
While click-rate is certainly of importance, consider the way in which retweets can perpetuate it that much further. The more you monitor your retweets, the more insight you will have into the type of content that people want to share. The more willing your followers are to share your content, the more opportunity you have to receive clicks from their following.
Simply put, more retweets means more clicks.
By taking the time to look closely at the amount of retweets you receive (or don't receive) you will be better equipped with the information necessary to improve click-rates.
3) The Fluffy Metric: The Facebook Like
The Facebook 'like' is like the cousin of the retweet on Twitter.
It symbolizes user engagement, and your audience's recognition of the quality of your content, product, or service.
With 1 billion users participating in social interactions, Facebook has proved its worth to marketers time and time again. So why are we putting 'likes' on the back burner?
While in the past, businesses were able to collect 'likes' on their company pages, it was tough to measure the value of them. Sure they looked good, but were they doing anything?
Now that Facebook has introduced the Graph Search feature, all those 'likes' you've been hoarding finally have their time to shine. Essentially, what the Graph Search feature did was transform the social network into a search engine for businesses. The currency required to make your way to the top of the search results page? Likes.
The more likes you generate, the more connections to people you will have, which will ultimately increase your Facebook Graph search rank. As you increase the number of people you are capable of pulling onto your Facebook page, you increase the likelihood that they will direct themselves back to your website where they can be converted.
The Hard Metric: Clicks
Like we said before, click-rates are a really strong metric that we encourage you to measure regularly, however, would it kill you to give your 'likes' a little TLC? Contrary to popular belief, they mean something these days, and if you're concerning yourself with click-rates, why not take advantage of an opportunity to boost them.
The higher your Facebook page ranks in their internal search engine, the more likely users will be to click in. More traffic to your Facebook page means more potential traffic to your website.
Facebook 'likes' can also contribute to your business’ credibility, as it serves as a form of social proof. If a consumer is deciding between two different restaurants, for example, it's likely that they'll steer themselves in the direction of the restaurant that people have actually taken the time to like.
4) The Fluffy Metric: +1 on Google+
There's no denying that Google+ hasn't caught on as quickly as I am sure they anticipated it would.
I mean, I neglect my Google+ account on a daily basis, occasionally feeding it a gentle sentiment like "it's not you, it's me." But seriously, it is me. Google+ isn't doing anything wrong. In fact, they're actually doing a lot right, so why aren't we paying attention?
According to a study conducted by Moz, a URL's number of Google +1s is morehighly correlated with search rankings than any other factor that they measured.
For those of you who are totally estranged from the platform, the +1 button functions as a way to signal your interest in a piece of content that you come in contact with. To quote them directly, "when you read a post that makes you want to cheer, +1 is your applause."
Ever so conveniently, Google+ gives you the option to add the +1 button to your website. With this button in place, your visitors have the option to +1 posts, updates, and other remarkable content on your site. The more your content is recommended, the better chance it has to receive a high click-through-rate.
Additionally, the introduction of the "Search Plus Your Word" update increased the value of a +1 significantly by ordering Google+ search results by the number of +1's they receive. (Source: Mashable)
Smells like social proof to me.
The Hard Metric: Search Rank
While +1's have proven their ability to boost your social search results, I'm sure you're not convinced that it's the right metric for you to be tracking quite yet.
That's just the thing, I'm not asking you to drop search rank like a sack of hot potatoes, but rather consider the way making a conscious effort to increase your +1's will help you improve your search rank. You want to measure your search rank regularly, as your rank correlates with the your websites ability to be found and visited. The more traffic you can drive to your websites, the better the opportunity to convert visitors to leads, and leads into customers. Logical.
However, while it's a bit more indirect, a greater number of +1's will increase the odds that visitors will click-through, and in turn share your content. This is where the potential for heightened search rank lies. If the number of +1's are serving as a deciding factor between whether or not someone choses to click on your content, you want to be sure that the odds are in your favor.
5) The Fluffy Metric: Impressions
If you have a presence on LinkedIn, it's likely that you are familiar with the concept of impressions.
While impressions don't indicate any action, what they do bring to the table is inactivity. Essentially impressions serve as a way to measure how many times your content is displayed regardless of whether or not someone clicks on it.
What sets impressions apart from traditional hard metrics is that it isn't evaluative, but rather it's navigational. A navigational metric works to help you steer your content toward higher profitability rather than serving as a means of profitability measurement. (Source: Marketing Metrics Made Simple)
Like I said before, the value of impressions lies in their ability to bright to light inactivity. If a piece of content receives 100 impressions and you note that it only received 10 clicks, you will have a strong understanding of the type of content that does not perform well. You can then harness this information and use it to inform your future content distribution decisions.
Having the ability to bring to light the content that is proven to fall victim to the endless scroll will help you better understand the consumer's online mentality, and the way in which they interact or don't interact with particular content.
The Hard Metric: Clicks
I bet you're thinking to yourself, "how is she going to tie a click-less measurement to the click-rate metric?"
Believe it or not, these two metrics make a really cute couple.
While impressions don't call upon clicks, but rather views as a whole, they are able to provide marketers with insight into what's working, and what's not. Measuring the amount of impressions a piece of content receives, and then comparing that number with the number of clicks it receives will help you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your content. From here you can focus on creating content that receives a balanced number of impressions and clicks.
Keep the Fluff
While these so-called “fluffy” marketing metrics may not have a place in the more analytical reports you’re delivering to your boss on a monthly basis, they’re certainly important in understanding what’s working, and more importantly, in forecasting an effective strategy going forward.
The one common thread among all of them is their innate subjectivity, which when it comes to developing content for your audience, is extremely helpful in providing direction.