The most important metric for any digital marketing effort is conversions. We all like money. But AFTER conversions, I have a radical idea of the most powerful metric for your content marketing: Social sharing.
Social sharing has been unfairly maligned as a “vanity metric” but I think it’s critical for most businesses because it drives the right behavior in a marketing department. Let’s dive into the majesty of social sharing today.
The business benefits of social sharing
There are three extraordinary benefits of social sharing (which simply means that somebody is sharing your content on their own social media channels):
First, when people share your content, they are making a statement to the world that they support whatever the content is about. In a virtual way, they’re standing up and saying “this means something to me, and I want it to mean something to you.”
In other words, the act of social sharing represents organic advocacy, and my friends, that is certainly the best marketing you could ever hope for.
The second big advantage is that people react to what is shared on social media. More than 75 percent of adults say their purchases are influenced by what they see friends sharing on the web. So … if people are sharing your content, eventually this may sway purchasing behavior. An increase in social sharing is a leading indicator of an increase in sales.
Finally, the content shared on social media helps define your brand. A brand used to be what a company told you it was. Today, a brand is what people tell each other. So feeding that narrative is important!
Organic advocacy + influenced purchasing behavior + brand narrative. Seems like a winning strategy to me!
The internal impact on your marketing department
But it gets better! Picking the right metric is critical because it drives the behavior of your marketing department. Measure what you treasure.
What does it take to get people to share your content?
- It has to be share-worthy. Your content has to be deeply relevant, interesting, timely, and entertaining. You need to constantly tune to your audience and adjust to evolving needs, tastes, and trends.
- You have to show up. You can’t just dump content into the marketplace and hope for something to happen. You need to consistently engage in a way that encourages social sharing.
- Finally, you need to know who is sharing your content. These are the special people who are driving the economic value of your content marketing effort. Do you know them by name? Do you treat them like royalty?
In summary, to drive social sharing as your success metric, you have to create finely-tuned content, actively engage on social media, and reward your best advocates. Isn’t that EXACTLY what your social media marketing department should be doing?
That’s why this metric rules.
Get into the social sharing mindset
The entire premise of my book The Content Code is that there is no power in content alone. There is only power in content that moves. The economic value of your digital marketing effort comes through the transmission of content. So how do we encourage social sharing?
One of the important strategies is to consider WHY people share, and then design your content to meet those needs. The New York Times Customer Insight Group published a study, “The Psychology of Sharing,” which explains five reasons people share content:
1. To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
Sharing content is one little way we can change the world. We want to inform, amuse, and help the people in our lives, and that’s why 94 percent of people say they share on social media.
2. To define ourselves to others
People share content because they want to look cool. We all have our personal brand, and the content we share reflects our identities. You are what you tweet. So it’s no surprise that 68 percent of people say they share on social media to communicate who they are and what they care about.
3. To grow and nourish relationships
People also share as a means to make and maintain connections. The research revealed that 73 percent of people share online to meet others with shared interests and 78 percent share because it enables them to communicate with people they otherwise wouldn’t stay in touch with.
4. To fulfill ourselves
Quite simply, we share because we enjoy it and it helps us feel more connected to the world. It’s fun to see people react to our posts.
5. To get the word out about causes or brands
In the world of social sharing, branding is more important than ever. In my book I explain the idea of “heroic brands.” These are the people, products, and companies that we support through social sharing just because we love them so much.
Here is the hard truth. It’s difficult to get people to share your content. Most people never do it. But marketing in general is hard, right? If you’re going to pick your battle, I think this is the right one.
The worst thing you can do in business is to execute beautifully on a flawed strategy. Most people are aiming at “engagement” as a key metric. I’m not a fan (and wrote about it here). Engagement is easily gamed (especially by influencers) and generally has no connection to sales.
On the other hand, social sharing drives the right behavior and results and it’s harder to game.
So if you have to pick a metric for your digital marketing efforts, I’d go with social sharing. There is just so much goodness in that number : )
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