Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

Why measuring share counts might not be the best way to measure actual sharing of content 

You might be interested in this article if you are a:

  • Data analyst 
  • Social media marketer 
  • Digital marketing leader 

Goal: Our goal is to increase shares of our social media and blog posts.

It’s not an uncommon goal in social media marketing and actually a smart one. Our content – and with that our stories – start spreading when others start sharing them to their own networks. 

And it used to be simple – kind of – to measure this. 

CMO: “How often was this shared?”

Data person: “Checking … 200 times.”

Of course that 200 times is the answer for how many times somebody clicked the share button. But there are many different ways people share content now, including:

  • Via direct message 
  • Via What’s App
  • Via email 
  • Verbally – while sitting next to each other (think two people reading the newspaper years ago)
  • In the comments

The last one seems to be a continuously increasing trend on Facebook. That looks like this:

  • Facebook post goes live 
  • People like and officially share 
  • Some people leave comments that look like this: “John (tagged), check out this article.”

So buddy John sees the post now because he’s tagged in the comments. It’s not a share to an entire network of the person tagging, but a one-on-one share. If John really cares about the topic it might be a high-value share even. But the comment usually also actually shares the post and comment to the poster’s network. When John replies that comment might also act as a share. 

But tagging somebody in a comment doesn’t count as a share. Neither does leaving a comment that basically shares the message. 

So should we stop tracking shares if it’s so hard and complicated? Nope, but be nimble enough with tracking to understand evolving user behavior. And network behavior. 

If the early success of the project depends on an increase in shares (which I wouldn’t recommend as a top-level goal anyway) make sure all shares are accounted for. That can be hard and maybe even impossible. 

I would recommend this: Set high-level goals and then look at other indicators for growth. Those could include:

  • Growth in readership 
  • Growth in engagement

The different ways to engage with content changes. Facebook adds new buttons. Twitter won’t track link shares for your blog. Etc. etc. 

Measure what can be measured and keep moving forward. Especially as many digital marketers depend more and more on third-party networks, it’s important to remember that the network rules and also user behavior change. 

Our options are:

  • Keep measurements high-level enough that we can keep up
  • Always keep an eye on changes 
  • Adjust strategies and measurements

When Facebook rolled out those reaction buttons in addition to the like button I did even tell clients to not set specific goals for each. Just count it all as engagement. Most people still only use the like button anyway. And some stories are more prone for the sad button than the love button. 

Measuring is fine and necessary. But measure what matters. And adjust goals when user behavior changes.

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Christoph blogs on The Authentic Storytelling Project and is a globally recognized content marketing expert. The IMA named him Internet Marketer of the Year in 2015. He works with healthcare organizations and other brands around the globe.

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