Last year, Instagram announced it would be getting rid of the Like count in Australia, Ireland and several other countries after years of pushing vanity metrics. The move shocked influencers and brands, but marketers – like myself – have welcomed the next phase of social, where more brands see Likes as superficial and unimportant.
Fast-forward to 2020, however, and while brands say they’re uninterested in vanity metrics, few are capable of letting go of them as a measure of campaign success. But social has matured, and with that has come a hundred new ways for brands to engage and sell products. Below are some tips for moving beyond vanity metrics.
See vanity metrics for what they are
Getting a Like on a post is like winning a bet. It’s a hit of the brain chemical dopamine, which carries a feel-good message that’s addictive. But a Like is often only ever a Like. It’s not a guaranteed sale, and while it’s nice to believe Likes may trick the algorithm into promoting your content further, the impact doesn’t compare to the reach of a well thought out paid strategy..
The minute you see this is the minute you see the bigger picture and the opportunities that exist now. One of those is social commerce, where your aim should be to get audiences to convert, swipe up, or try out an AR product demo with a view to making a purchase. In this case, chasing Likes only convolutes the journey.
Approach social with a clearer objective or challenge
Organic reach is everything you do on social that you don’t pay for. The strategy is also known as always-on, simply because being always-on on social media by posting consistently several times a day was previously the only way to grow. But as Facebook has developed its ad products, organic reach has mattered less because Facebook knows it can now charge you to reach a bigger audience.
Q4 2020 saw organic posts on Facebook reach just 5.5% of a brand’s followers – down 2.2% from the previous year, according to Hootsuite. Some call it a challenge, I call it getting to grips with the true objective of your campaign. If your objective is to ‘have a viral win’, you’ll only waste time and money trying to engineer virality. If your objective is to sell home insurance to millennials, Likes should be the last thing you think about. It would make more sense to A/B test with Instagram Stories and set up a Facebook Pixel to target users who have been looking at price comparison sites.
Develop a tone of voice and personality that encourages conversation
Some brands can notch up thousands of Likes without doing very much. For these, Likes aren’t a KPI but merely a consequence of being engaging and conversational. Fast food brands like Burger King and Wendy’s are particularly adept at this and owe their success to years of online brand building Despite everything I’ve said, if you’re the sort of brand that thrives on engagement – for instance, if you’re a new brand that sees Likes and comments as social proof – put in the work with a conversational tone of voice that encourages comments and interactions with your followers.
You can’t put out a purely product-focused ad with a CTA to buy and expect your notifications to be filled with Likes. However, on platforms like Twitter, where Likes, comments and retweets play a bigger role, the onus is on you to create a brand with a personality and a human presence. If you’re only on social to sell, revert to the previous rule and set out a clear objective. But remember this, the best brands balance the two with a mix of brand purpose, humour, competitions and instant messaging. They treat social as a two-way conversation, not a broadcast channel.
Ask more of your marketing agency or department
Research shows 31% of marketers can’t show the impact of social on their business. And yet with all the advancements in analytics and ad tools, statements like these seem ludicrous. At the same time, they highlight that brands are still guilty of relying on vanity metrics as a means of success when they should be thinking about brand sentiment, sales uplifts and any combination of the above. As a brand, that comes with being transparent about what you want and asking the right questions, e.g:
- What’s our cost per mile (CPM) and how do we bring it down?
- Do viewers drop off on our video content before the CTA?
- What’s the average dwell time on our Facebook page?
- How many people have converted via our last Instagram Stories ads?
The bottom line
With mental health concerns and more transparency around algorithms, it’s likely vanity metrics such as Likes won’t exist in the next ten years. The easiest way to get ahead in the future is to pretend Likes don’t exist when measuring success now. Ask more of your social strategy than you did several years ago and always think about your most important brand objective, be that awareness, sales, or sentiment change.
Kunal Pattany is a public speaker, technology commentator and the founder and CEO of Digital Human. With 15 years’ experience in marketing for leading companies like Kantar, a WPP data and insights company, he has turned his attention to the impact of digital and AI on humans and society’s response to innovation. To find out more about Digital Human, click here. To talk with Kunal about speaking opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org 👋