On The Web, Some Numbers Matter More Than Others (Or Why I Rarely Check Facebook Insights)
May 3, 2016
I'm going to make a confession that may surprise some people: In executing the digital strategy for Jacobs Media Strategies, I spend very little time looking at Facebook Insights.
I just don't find the data there all that relevant to our overall strategy.
Jacobs Media Strategies uses Content Marketing to reach potential customers. This is the same content marketing strategy that I encourage radio stations to implement to reach more listeners and more potential advertisers. For a quick recap of how content marketing works, watch this 4-minute video:
Even though we are using the same strategy that radio stations should use, there are some key differences between Jacobs Media Strategies and a typical radio station trying to reach listeners through the web:
- We don't have a radio station to promote our website.
- We are a business-to-business company, not a business-to-consumer company. As a result, Twitter is a stronger channel for us than Facebook. LinkedIn ranks third in importance among social networks for our company. By contrast, Facebook is usually far and away the top social network for radio stations - at least on the programming side of the building.
Our Digital Goals
The goal of Jacobs Media's website is to serve existing clients and attract new clients. But let's be honest - that's kind of fuzzy. It's easier to define the goals of your digital strategy in concrete, measurable terms when you sell gadgets online. When you offer consulting and research services which are based on a vast array of factors, it's not as easy to connect your bottom line back to your digital strategy.
So what metrics matter to us? What are our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?
We decided that the things we would focus on are, in order of importance:
- The number of people who sign up for our email list
- The number of people who visit our website
These two metrics should definitely appear at the top of the list of digital stats that your station cares about, but you may also want to add a few others:
- The number of people who stream your station
- The number of people who enter a contest
- The number of clicks on online advertisements
- The number of people who fill out a form requesting advertising information
- The number of tickets sold to a station event
- The amount of station merchandise sold
Notice that the number of likes or comments that we get on Facebook doesn't appear anywhere on this list. I do keep track of the number of Facebook followers that we have - I log it in a spreadsheet each week - but I don't need to access Facebook Insights to get that number, and it's very low on the list of metrics that I care about.
The Facebook Number That Matters
When it comes to Facebook, the number that I care most about is the number of visitors that come to our website from Facebook. I compare this to the number of visitors we get from other sources, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and referral sites like All Access. But I get this number by looking at Google Analytics, not Facebook Insights.
Of course, when we see a sudden spike in traffic from Facebook, I like to know which post is causing it. But this information usually comes from Google Analytics, not Facebook Insights.
We don't just share our own website content on Facebook. We share content that we think will interest our followers from a wide mix of sources - including sites like All Access, Nielsen's blog, Business Insider, Forbes, etc. While it's good to mix in content from other places, that content doesn't have an effect on the two numbers we care about most - email signups and website visitors.
For example, not all Facebook shares are equal. A share of our content will drive traffic to our website and lead to email signups, while a share of Perez Hilton's content will not. A link to a Huffington Post article about Prince may get a lot of likes, shares, comments, or even clicks, but those things don't connect back to our bottom line. They're good, but they're "fuzzy" good, so I don't care enough about them to check all that often.
In short, Facebook Insights shows data about our social posts featuring content from other websites alongside our posts featuring content from our website. The latter group is much more important to me than the former, and it's easier for me to measure this in Google Analytics than Facebook Insights.
The Real Value of Facebook
There is value in connecting with listeners through Facebook. In our qualitative research, we have heard listeners talk about the impact a station has had on them by responding to their comments or liking their posts. But this impact is very difficult to measure in concrete terms. Yes, you should reach out to fans through social media, but I wouldn't expend a lot of energy trying to quantify it.
While I do monitor Facebook regularly, I use it primarily to listen to other radio people. I participate in several radio discussion groups, and it's a great way to get a feel for what issues radio station employees are dealing with on a day to day basis. This often serves as a reality check. While we talk about the connected car and podcasting a lot in the halls at Jacobs Media Strategies, most radio folks are talking about this weekend's promotional appearance and the 60-second spot with 90 seconds of sales copy. We use the conversations we hear on Facebook as inspiration for our website content. Here's a recent example.
For me, this inspiration comes from participating in actual Facebook discussions, not from looking at Facebook Insights. Of course, you could also glean that info by looking at Facebook Insights. For example, if a lot of people clicked on the post linking to a TMZ article about Taylor Swift, you could interpret that as a sign that you should create more content about Taylor Swift. Facebook can be an effective way to learn what content will resonate with your audience.
The Pitfall of Facebook Insights
I would never discourage people from looking at data. It is always beneficial to review your metrics. However, it's important to be able to put those numbers in the proper context. It's important to have a firm grasp on your radio station's overall digital strategy. In that strategy, some numbers - like email signups and website visitors - are much more important than others - such as likes, comments, and followers. The danger with Facebook Insights is that people may start to focus on metrics that don't have a big impact on the radio station's bottom line. In fact, some stations go so far as to bonus employees on unimportant metrics.
Remember: Context is king.
I don't check Facebook Insights very often because we have been able to increase email signups and web traffic without the data there. If you want to look at Facebook Insights on a regular basis, go right ahead. Just make sure you understand how all those numbers fit into your station's overall digital strategy.
Some numbers matter more than others.
NEXT STEP: Get your digital team together for a discussion about metrics. Form a consensus about which numbers are very important and which are not.