We all love our vanity metrics. Whether you are a professional digital marketer or someone just waiting for your latest Instagram post to reach 10 likes so that you can double tap without anyone noticing, we are all aware of how attractive we are on social media. And we all want to be attractive. They're called vanity metrics for a reason.
For the uninitiated, vanity metrics are the likes, shares, retweets and comments you accrue on your social accounts and posts. They tell you that that friend from high school approves of your latest career move; that your Facebook strategy is too touchy feel, or not enough; and they are also what algorithms of each social platform use to determine if your content – yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s – is worth showing to more than just your extended family.
And not all vanity metrics are created equal. A “like” is not worth a “comment” and a comment is not worth a “share.” It’s like an ever-going game of Settlers of Catan and we are all trying to get enough ore to build a city. And in the game of social, ore is the share.
As you begin any social strategy, you have to start with your audience, and not your audience as a collective – because that is rude – but your audience in the sense of the individuals that comprise it. And the individual you should start with is yourself.
Chances are you reserve comments for close friends or brands that you want to notice you, while you probably rain down likes on everything like Oprah on a “My Favorite Things” episode. But shares are a curious bird. Sharing something puts your name on it. It attaches you to that content and tells all those who follow you that this piece of content has your stamp of approval for their consideration and time. That is why we share far less than we like and comment, and also why the share is a metric that we should pay close attention to if social is a game we want to play well.
But what makes us hit the "share" button? We share things that will connect us more deeply with another person or group of people. Shareable things have the ability to either connect us broadly to a large group of people (e.g. all our childhood friends or co-workers), or connect us uniquely and poignantly to one person (e.g. a best friend, sibling or parent). Consider whom your content will be shared with, because it usually cannot effectively perform both roles.
After considering whom your content with be shared with, then consider what it is that will be shared. Shareable things are messages and messages are words. Whether those words are included in the caption of a post or in overlay on a graphic, it’s our words that say something, that start, enhance or complete a story; it’s our words that people share.
It is always nice to paint a picture, but make sure that that picture tells a story. People like photos, but they share words. And shares are the most valuable form of digital currency.