They say sharing is caring. But we’re marketers, and at the end of the day caring doesn’t add up to much if it doesn’t add up to sales. So what’s the real value of a social share?
When it comes to engagement on social media, amplification actions have always been the gold standard. An amplification action is when one user intentionally shares your content with his or her own social network. So this includes Facebook shares, Twitter retweets and mentions, Pinterest repins, Tumblr reblogs, and Instagram regrams — as opposed to more passive (though certainly still valuable) likes, favorites, and hearts. Amplification actions get your content out to broader audiences — to those second- and third-degree connections known as friends of fans.
But even more importantly, this type of content represents a personal endorsement of your brand. When users share your content to their own networks, they’re giving your brand social context. Their friends will see your brand through an entirely different lens. You’re no longer a brand talking into the ether; you’re a brand that a friend is talking about. And that’s pretty cool, right?
But what’s that actually worth? Is this all just a bunch of psychological mumbo-jumbo or can a social share be valued in cold-hard cash?
Yeah, what is the value of a social share?
In Q4, we ran a content-driven Facebook campaign with paid support for one of our clients. About a month in, we implemented a new UTM tracking structure across all marketing efforts and had to switch out the URL links on all of our Facebook ads. What happened next was totally unexpected.
We continued to see traffic trickling in to the company’s website from the now-defunct UTM codes. Not a huge amount, but more than zero — which is what you’d typically expect from links that are, for all intents and purposes, dead.
The only explanation for this was that the content that was shared prior to the UTM code switch was still driving traffic to the site.
Sure enough, when we tracked the traffic back its source, we found that it was all being driven by a single piece of content that was shared 350 times — the most shared content of the campaign by far.
So there’s your proof of concept. Content that has been shared enough cannot die (but rises again, hardened and stronger). But there are three additional points that make this even more interesting:
- The traffic being driven to the site was converting at a rate of 25% (1,150% higher than the campaign average). This validates the point that social context makes your brand more appealing. Those users who find your brand via a referral from a friend are significantly more likely to convert.
- The defunct UTMs continue to drive new traffic to the site to this day. It’s a tiny amount — only a couple referrals last month — but this has been going on for more than four months now. I think that’s pretty impressive, given that most people consider the lifespan of a Facebook post to be a few days at most.
- Every month, at least 20% of the traffic from this “dead link” is from new users to the site, which means this content is still being discovered.
So in terms of driving ROI from social content, getting those shares is critical. That social context — word of mouth, peer-to-peer, conversational — is what differentiates social content distribution from other methods such as paid search and email. After all, how often do people log in to their Facebook or Twitter accounts thinking, “Gee, I wonder what that brand’s been up to for past few days”? Brands really excel in the social space when they surprise people with genuinely interesting or helpful content. But even that alone isn’t always enough to get significant attention. It’s when you start getting your fans to distribute your content for you that you’ll start to see serious results.
So in terms of getting unique value out of social marketing, shares might just be the most critical KPI. But how does one go about making social content more sharable? Good question. I’ll tackle that in my next post.