Numbers don’t count

Facebook has more than 500 million users, the Apple app store has 200000 apps. Intimidating numbers, however they lack any value. The fact that Facebook has 500 million users is great, however I might only have 500 people who I see as my real friends who I would connect to Facebook, meaning that 499999500 users are useless for me. Same goes for the app store, I have in total 53 apps installed on my iPhone, I don’t need more at this moments, meaning that 199947 apps are useless for me.

So what do these numbers tell us? Actually not much, it shows how many accounts there are on Facebook or how many apps there in the app store, however they doesn’t say a thing about the value of these numbers or even the relevancy for you. Still it seems, we like these numbers very much. They are big numbers and we often associate these numbers with success. Maybe that is the reason that people often use the same empty, non relevant numbers in their KPI for social media campaigns.

Irrelevant numbers

Some examples of irrelevant numbers for social media:

  • Number of hits on a website
    Completely irrelevant, your goal is not getting people to your website, you want people to do something there. This can be consuming information, watching a demo, buying something, recommending a product, creating content  etc etc.
  • Number of unique visitors on a website
    Just like the previous completely irrelevant. The only unique visitor that is relevant is the one who helps you in getting to your business goal. It is easy to get an unique visitor, it is hard to turn the unique visitor in a loyal fan who adds value on a regular basis to your business goals
  • Number of followers on Twitter
    Too often Twitter seems like some kind of numbers game. Do you want 4000 followers? Well that is easy. Do you want 100 followers on twitter who listen to what you have to say, that engage with you and promote your tweets? That is a lot harder
  • Number of mentions on Twitter
    If you want to have a lot of mentions on Twitter there is just one thing you have to do: you have to do it completely wrong. Just don’t provide service on your products, be rude to your customers and be ruder to everybody else. You are instant hit on Twitter, however how much does this help you? Exactly: none.
  • The number of ideas generated during crowd sourcing
    Another dubious number often used: this initiative created a staggering number of 1000 new ideas. What is the value of one idea and what is the value of one brilliant idea? Having 1000 suggestions is nice, however if these are all the same it is actually 1 suggestion, if they are unusable there are actually zero suggestions.
  • Number of articles on the Wiki
    With just a few clicks an article is created, however is this article of any use, will anybody ever read it, or use it as a starting point? Just creating content is not meaning that this content adds any value
  • Number of members on your internal social network
    Just make sure everybody is signed up, and most often they will in the first week after the first mailing inviting everybody to the new and shiny platform. However how many of these member on your internal social network are doing *something* with this network? Are any of them creating content, are any of them reading? Or are they just a name on the list?

Contribution to business goals

Why are all these numbers not relevant? They lack context, and do not tie into any business goals (or personal goals). Therefore don’t go for just numbers, measure how certain activities contribute to the business goals. Then numbers aren’t just numbers but direct proof on how this helped in getting to these goals.