At Dreamforce this year, we'll be discussing the topic of "From Likes to Leads", in which we examine traditional social media metrics and ROI, then look at more thorough ways to measure beyond just Likes and equivalent behaviors. That said, it's time to disabuse a misperception about Likes (and by extension, all vanity metrics like Followers, Fans, +1s, etc.).

There's been a trend among social media experts and such that Likes are bad, that Likes don't matter, and that anyone who measures their social media performance is doing it wrong if they're measuring Likes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

At SHIFT, Likes are part of a set of three core behaviors that help media spread, that help you earn media. Likes are a voting behavior, similar to +1s and Twitter favorites. The other two core behaviors are engagements, such as commenting, clicks, replies, etc. and shares, which include things like retweets and reshares. These behaviors are typically considered to be "vanity metrics", metrics which don't have any bottom line impact.

If we change our perception of these behaviors and their metrics from being end goals to being part of a larger process, we see that they do play a role in the marketing process. Think of your audience members as seeds in a field, and your ultimate end goal is to reap a crop that can provide you value. Do you, as a responsible farmer, simply throw a bunch of seeds on the ground and wait, or even worse, stand at your field and yell at them until they grow? Of course not. You take care of them, applying nutrients to help them grow, preventing weeds and pests from devouring them before they've matured.

Much in the same way as you take care of seeds and sprouts, fostering the core behaviors of voting, engaging, and sharing help your audience mature until some portion of them are marketing-ready and sales-ready. Measuring Likes is, in effect, a proxy for measuring the effectiveness and care you're giving to your audience on the way towards helping a certain portion of them self-identify as your next customers.

At SHIFT, several of our clients for whom we manage social media and digital marketing (in addition to Public Relations) have begun to measure the behaviors we seek from their audiences, and there is an incredibly strong correlation between the behaviors we encourage and the effectiveness of a channel on lead generation (and ultimately business results).

Don't make the mistake of believing that Likes are the end goal - that's been said many a time. However, don't make the equally bad mistake of believing they don't matter.


4522580892_044fcb871b_tChristopher S. Penn is Vice President, Marketing Technology of SHIFT Communications. You can connect with him on Twitter at @cspenn.




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