While getting likes and shares is good, what you really want is website clicks and conversions. Yes, getting people to follow your brand page or interact with your stuff is a good starting point, but if you’re not getting them to take those key next steps, you might be just spinning your wheels.
So, do social likes and shares even matter? Should you bother even tracking these ‘vanity metrics’?
The answer is yes to both, but maybe not for the reasons you think. Here are three reasons why social shares are still valuable.
The first thing to consider is that through shares and engagement, your content gets wider distribution.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all now use algorithm-defined systems that dictate who sees your content, and how many people your posts reach. Basically, it’s not possible for every user to see every post from every page and person they follow, so each platform has its own way of showing the most relevant content to each user – and a key part of that equation is engagement on each post.
The more engagement you can generate, the more people will see your posts on social. Sure, that still doesn’t mean those people will click through to your website, but reaching more people increases your prospects of more clicks – social shares are a key element in this process, so you definitely want to be generating more of them.
When someone likes your page or shares your post, it’s also a form of advocacy – it says that this person, in some way, endorses your material.
Last year, content strategy group Fractl analysed sharing behaviour on Facebook and found that many users share content to maintain a certain image of themselves, to present their interests and likes to others. As part of this, when they like and share your posts, they’re working to underline their beliefs and reinforce who they are. Thus, shares perform a sort of social proof, and in the modern age of constant connection, that kind of endorsement can be extremely valuable.
Again, this is not direct links to your website, but it’s boosting brand advocacy, which, in turn, can generate more brand awareness and improve sentiment about your business.
3. SEO benefits
The final element may be the most important – social shares actually help boost your search engine value. But not in the way you probably think.
Google has repeatedly stated that they don’t take social shares into account – it doesn’t matter to Google whether a tweet has a hundred likes or ten. Google can’t rely on those signals, so they opt for more secure, measureable stats, such as page authority and website traffic.
But of course, you can improve your page authority by getting more backlinks and referrals, and you do that by getting more people to visit your site.
How can you can get more people to visit your site? By creating great content and sharing your links – and social is a key medium for sharing traffic with relevant audiences.
Sharing through social enables you to target specific users and groups, and reach people most likely to be interested in your content. More people clicking through equals more traffic – more traffic leads to more interest from relevant authorities and authority sites, which helps boost page rank.
Google might not take direct social signals into account, but they certainly measure the related effects of your social efforts.
As you can see, while social shares and engagement stats are vanity metrics to a degree, they have wider purpose beyond the numbers alone. If someone was to brag about getting a million re-tweets, that, in itself, might mean little – but the subsequent interest they likely achieved, in the form of related click-throughs and brand awareness, would be important.