When producing social content we rightfully set ourselves metrics to measure success; this I understand, this I like. What I struggle with is the obsession and addiction to the ‘biggest’ numbers we can find.

I speak in generalities, but when I look at award-winning campaigns, ‘impressions’, ‘reach’ and ‘view counts’ are used as the sexy headlines and in my eyes they are little more than that, they are often the in-your-face, attention seeking numbers; maximum volume, minimal substance. They shouldn’t be used as the sole determinants of the success of content. Absolutely they are a good starting point but if it was my money, I would want more than just a starting point.

Consider a 60 second social video, produced as part of a brand campaign and set live on Facebook with paid promotion targeting engagement. It reaches a million views and what a beautiful sight that is for any content manager. But scratch the surface and we realise that 85% of these views have had no sound on, video completion rate is under 20% and it has only been shared 20 times. That piece of content now appears to be underperforming.

In a context where a view is counted at 3 seconds (Facebook / Instagram) I struggle to understand how we accept view counts as a sign of success without anything else to give more substance.

Reach and impressions are in the same bucket. Giving a reach figure without multiple other figures, such as conversion rates (%), number of shares/comments, retweets etc. means very little, even less when you consider paid content.

And all of this is before we even get to understanding the sentiment around a piece of content.

Using reach and viewing figures as the only indicators of success can actually cause damage, because it doesn’t challenge anyone’s content to face up to reality. If you looked solely at view rates, you might not think we need to start using text and figures in Facebook videos to ensure content is understood without sound. You might not consider that the first three seconds are critically important to maintain viewership and any call to action you have needs to be early on. You mightn’t even ask if this is reaching the people we want?

One stat in isolation is not the measure of success, but the combination of awareness, engagement and action is where social content is at its most powerful and can trump other ‘traditional’ formats. The exciting thing is that there is potential to really discover what is impactful. The main issue for me is not that we use the big numbers, it’s that we all know they are not, on their own, the best indicators of success and yet we crave them above everything else. We need to stop kidding ourselves, be honest and when just given a reach figure, ask ‘So what?’

Peter Purcell

Communications Executive