May 30, 2013

The only Facebook metric that really matters

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  • Buffer

PTAT
Photo courtesy of ChFagerland (Creative Commons)

Why the end goal is to get people talking

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, marketers.

John HaydonForrester recently published research proving, yet again, that people overwhelmingly trust what their friends say about a brand.  And they rarely trust what brands say about themselves.

If we apply this to Facebook, it means that your community talking about you is much more powerful than you talking about yourself.

This is why People Talking About This (PTAT) is the ultimate metric on Facebook.

Now, if you ask any marketer to choose between People Talking About This and the number of fans they have, or to choose between People Talking About This and the number of people they reach, any honest Facebook marketer will admit that they fantasize about millions of people sharing their content. And while they might brag about reach to their boss, they certainly don’t fantasize about it.

Why do marketers brag about reach?

If brands ultimately care about people talking about them on Facebook, why is there such an emphasis on increasing reach and fans? Especially because increasing reach and fans doesn’t lead to an increase in virality.

Maybe overvaluing reach and fan quantity is a carryover from pre-social marketing practices: impressions, eyeballs, exposure, etc.

Or maybe it’s just hard to accept that getting people to share your content often feels impossible.

Whatever the reason, valuing reach and fan growth over PTAT is like valuing:

  • Delivered emails more than click-throughs
  • Landing page views more than conversions
  • Handshakes more than new sponsors

Reach and fans are means to an end

Don’t get me wrong, reach and page likes are important. But they are both means to an end. People Talking About This is the ultimate end on Facebook.

Just like the ultimate end on your website is conversions.

To use a baseball analogy:

The Red Sox focus on runs as their ultimate end. The means to that end include having the right number of players (fans) and a nicely mowed field (reach).

Why is valuing PTAT above all other Facebook metrics important?

Imagine the shift in your Facebook results when people stop asking:

“How can we increase our reach on Facebook?”

or: “How can we get more Page likes?”

And they start asking: “How can we get more people to share our page updates with their friends?”

What do you guys think? Does your organization focus on getting others to spread the word? Post your hate mail below, marketers!John Haydon delivers social web strategy solutions for “the quick, the smart, and the slightly manic.” Curious? Then visit the John Haydon blog, follow him on Twitter or leave a comment.

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