I need to start this post by confessing that I’ve been wanting to use ≠ in a post for ages. For anyone who is thinking it’s a typo, it’s not it’s actually the symbol for *does not equal*, so indulge me with my quirk if you will and keep reading – anyone who got here already.
In fact let’s start right there – that’s me, that’s my quirk, that’s my indulgence. When I blog I tend to stay very true to me, it’s a personal blog, I write what I like and I don’t worry too much about who reads what. If I was blogging for work, or concerned about understanding or promoting something of mass interest, I doubt I’d start a blog like this, I’ve already lost at least half of you who stumbled here I guess. There is the point of this blog post – a reflection on social media metrics, and the challenges of measuring anything useful and the relationship between self and audience satisfaction.
I joined the #lgovsm chat this week and found it really useful, in fact I really enjoyed the fast pace discussion and challenge, you can read a write up of the discussion here. The bit that made it for me was hearing from new people, who only rarely fall into my social media path, and having some debate and discussion. I work in social care and in my opinion we’re a sector woefully short of social media influencers. In fact I’d argue those who may be considered to be such know very little about #socialcare – they may know about #socmed or about communications, but few seem to understand the intricacies of social care, and where they do they only occasionally have the opportunity to join in a lot of the social media discussions because their working lives doesn’t facilitate them sitting in front of a computer to participate.
At this point I should declare (in case you’ve not noticed already) that this post is likely to be full of sweeping statements – I’m sure that’ll lose another 20% of you as I offend your own viewpoint, apologies.
Back to my last point, certainly most people working in #localgov social care are lucky if when they can access computer equipment, they are not on machines that are at least 5-10 years old, running IE6, without a sound card. Lots of residential care providers have been helped online through the Department of Health funded Get Connected project, but there is still a long way to go before most providers are active participants in social media. I’m not even going to consider those of us who use social care services, rather than work in them (and I know it’s not either/or) but I think that needs another post, another time.
Maybe this is the same in other sectors, or maybe it is particularly pronounced given how slow the social care sector has been to embrace technology more broadly, and social media as one vehicle within that. I’m not sure, but I’m sure there are some social media experts who will let me know. Which brings me on to the point of my post that could make or destroy it’s reach – working on the assumption that I’ve only lost 70% of the readership already. The blatant opinion, that is likely to upset those people who have the most social media reach. These are the people who have the largest networks, and/or the most followers, and/or the most ‘influence’ (as measured by social media metrics).
If you’d like to know more about metrics and their measurement then take a peak at the post written by @Ermintrude2 that you can read here and that post built on an introductory one from @ClaireOT which you can read here.
There are so many limits to social media metrics, I’m not going to get into the algorithms (because the posts above do) but I’m going to offer three tricks, as I see them, for anyone interested in increasing their influence and/or extending their reach:
1) Follow more – invariably those with highest influence scores follow thousands of followers on twitter, or facebook, or linkedin. There is a simple reciprocity bias at play here, the more you follow, the more follow you – and therefore the more people there are to share your wisdom and musings with the world.
2) Don’t talk to the little people – one or two well timed interactions, with other similarly ‘influential’ types will boost your scores, chat and discussion with those lower down the food chain won’t. So you get more influence for hanging with the cool kids than encouraging and welcoming new people into your social media circles.
3) Re-tweet (RT) as much as possible, or better still take someone else’s tweet, add your own hashtag and mention them at the end with a hat-tip (HT) if at all. This will allow lots of people who follow you to think you’re adding to the discussion, they won’t necessarily know that it isn’t your contribution and when it comes to them RTing they’ll end up RT you not the person at the end of the tweet (where you remembered to mention them).
I believe all of those three tricks will help increase your reach and influence. What none of them do though is account for quality, and there lies the rub for me:
reach ≠ quality
It seems to me that one of the great successes of social media is that it enables us to turn broadcast on it’s head. It is no longer about cascading information, but about disrupting and debating and reframing and building and contributing to information. It is about a living, breathing entity. Therefore I’d like to see any social media metric measuring engagement and participation, and quality of contribution within that. Unless I’m missing something the metrics just aren’t there yet. So I’ll keep my head in the sand and keep relying on my favourite social media metric – a word of mouth recommendation, or a discussion with someone who bothers to engage with me. I know that I’ll bias my own network like that, I know that I’ll make my own judgements, which may well not be as reliable as the algorithm, however I prefer my own judgement of quality over quantity or reach any day.
Disclaimer: I know nothing about klout or other social media metrics, I’ve never visited their site or awarded any scores to anyone. I try to follow no more than 100 people on twitter and my facebook account is full of photos of my mates babies. I am NOT an expert on this stuff – I’m just throwing my thoughts into the mix. I do NOT wish to offend anyone, merely to promote discussion and to that end I’d love to know your thoughts and views. If any of you read this – thank you – I can’t believe you reached the end!
My arrows came from here.