You’re so vain, I bet you think this post is about you.

Ok, I lied, it sort of is. Ever wondered what value a “like”, “follow”, or “retweet” really holds? It’s not a surprise that these metrics can be a bit contentious. It’s not as if someone clicking on that pixelated little thumbs up will magically put food on your table.

Back in my neuro days we learned about mouse/rat models for addiction. They trained those cute little squeakers to self-administer doses of cocaine & other addictive drugs by pressing a little lever. These rodents would press the lever to the point of exhaustion, forgoing food, water & sleep just to get the dopamine rush the drugs supplied.

Where am I going with this? Scientists have shown that humans get these rushes of pleasurable dopamine not just from addictive drugs, but also from “likes”, “follows” and other forms of validation on social media. Is it any wonder we are so addicted to Facebook?

All disconcerting science aside, this creates a cautionary tale for anyone doing social marketing. Especially you DIY bootstrapping social media mavens out there! It’s imperative not to get caught up in the warm, fuzzy, addictive feelings of “likes” and other vanity metrics.

My father (a statistician and lean six sigma coach) always said “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics”. This is originally attributed to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and later Mark Twain. Smart guys, all of them. Here is how you can ensure you aren’t lying to yourself with statistics by falling in love with vanity metrics.

Facebook Pixel

A fabulous way to track conversions from Facebook to your website. A Facebook pixel is a teeny snippet of code that you place in key locations on your webpage, such as your contact form or shopping cart. Every time someone who has liked or interacted with your Facebook page visits the part of your website with your pixel, it logs it for you to see.

You could embed a pixel on every page of your website to see where people are going after leaving your Facebook (or your developer could if you aren’t code savvy, please don’t blame me if you break your website). Less is more, because the more code you throw in the backend the slower your site will load. Slow loading websites are probably worse than vanity metrics.

Track URL’s with URL Builder 

You should already be tracking traffic to your webpage using some form of analytics, such as Google Analytics. If not, see me after class, we have more work to do….

URL Builder allows you to add custom fields to your web links such as campaign name, source etc. This is magic when you are posting the same link to multiple social platforms and want to see which page is performing best. It also allows you to distinguish between link locations (banner vs post vs about section), and determine which traffic is driven by social efforts, and which is organic.

Important stuff because your efforts on social should be targeted, putting your effort only where it is paying off. Wasting time on posts that don’t perform? Aint nobody got time for that…

Play around with it. If you are trying to drive traffic to your website and learn that people click on your links from LinkedIn but not Twitter, this data should shape your behavior going forward. If something is working, do more of that. Obvious, right?

A/B Copy tests + URL Builder

An A/B test is a great way to see which imagery or messaging performs best. This is when you put two similar but slightly different ads head to head in a fight to the death! Just kidding, you serve the ads to similar audiences and test which gets more engagement. No one dies, but you do find which version of the ad should be sent to the farm upstate (sorry, Fido), and which you should focus your efforts on.  When A/B testing you will customize the links to help you see which is performing better. Each link will be slightly different, and this will show up in your traffic sources on Google Analytics!

A/B Demographic tests + URL Builder

Say you want to target CPA’s or financial advisors, but aren’t sure which deserve more of your attention. You can do two ads on LinkedIn and serve them to each group, tagging the URL and including their demographic info in each. In the copy test example above we used two slightly different ads, this time you would use the same exact ad but with different targeting.

If the link targeted to Financial Advisors performed better (more clicks), clearly that audience is more interested in your wares. Or, financial advisors like clicking things. Rule 27b of statistics, never assume causality, although we can infer in this instance they are probably into you.

Hooray Science!

This is why I like social media, its science! Running experiments, testing what works, and shaping your approach as you go. The methods above give you more actionable results than merely chasing likes or retweets. Rather than patting yourself on the back for pulling in a bunch of vanity metrics, you can track and measure results that will help improve your marketing behaviors to grow your business going forward.

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