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The obsession over social media shares – is quality or quantity better?

Quality over quantity?

We’ve all heard some iteration of the phrase, “it’s the quality, not the quantity, that truly matters.” But do you really believe it?

As far as measurement is concerned, you absolutely should. Let’s consider two examples that I’ve been stewing over lately: frequency and number of social shares and the surge in traffic from StumbleUpon.

Campaigns and brands tend to have very distinct goals when jumping into social media, but one objective is often universal. Driving engagement among consumers is likely tantamount to anything else. Whether that means garnering comments on a Facebook page or retweets of an official Twitter account, engagement is the often a holy grail.

An obsession with numbers

When measuring content sharing like retweets or Facebook shares, it’s easy to fixate on big numbers. Getting a ton of shares or retweets is always better than fewer, right? Not necessarily.

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All things being equal, you absolutely want more shares to help spread your content and messages further. Would you rather publish one piece of content per week that receives 500 shares or publish four pieces of content that receive 200 shares each?

I would choose the latter for a couple reasons. Most obviously, while each individual piece of content is garnering fewer shares, overall I’m seeing more shares per week (800). More importantly, though, I’m driving consistent engagement.

One hit wonders

If you publish content controversial or entertaining enough, you can likely drive a large number of shares once. But if you’re using social media, your goal is likely to build engagement and form a community. One-hit wonders won’t help you do that, but delivering content on a regular basis that your community wants to share time and again? That’s more like it.

It’s really not much different than television commercials in the sense that I may be more likely to recall a hilarious commercial I saw during the Super Bowl last year, but I’m more likely to buy a product from a company I see consistently.

Example: StumbleUpon

Now let’s look at StumbleUpon. A few months ago, everyone seemed to be talking about how StumbleUpon was driving a great deal of traffic to their website. Suddenly it seemed like StumbleUpon was the largest referrer of traffic for just about everybody. And the next thing you know, everyone was blogging about how to optimize for StumbleUpon and make it work even better for your site.

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It turns out that while StumbleUpon really is driving a great deal of traffic to many, many websites and blogs, the quality of that traffic is extremely questionable. Bloggers began to report that visitors from StumbleUpon bounced more and spent less time on site than others.

The ultimate temptation

It’s tempting to assume that getting 1,000 visitors each day is far better than getting only 100. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have those 100 folks come to my blog, poke around, read a few posts and maybe leave a comment. Seeing 1,000 visitors come and immediately leave is really no better than seeing those same 100 come and immediately leave. It’s just more people who apparently don’t find value from your site.

Trust me, we all get wowed by big numbers. It’s too easy to do these days. The next time you’re shaking your head because something seems too good to be true, add some context. Try to consider additional details to understand if that giant number is really telling you something great.

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Written By

Rebecca is a passionate UNC graduate, and a biochemist-turned-communications professional, she spends her days as a senior social media analyst at Digitas in Chicago, specialized social media monitoring and measurement best practices. She is continually excited to explore additional facets of digital measurement like traditional Web analytics, search metrics and integrated data models.

41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. Aaron Friedman

    October 27, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Awesome post Rebecca! Everything you have said is spot on. And to add once small thing to complement what you are saying, more often than not, having that consistent engagement will drive more traffic and likely more shares to the other pieces. This is especially true if they are properly linked together, reference the other posts or are part of a series.

    So in the short term you come out on top because, well, the shares are of a higher caliber. But as time goes on, you end up having more shares reaching a more niche audience. But even more than that, you will hopefully see continued shares resulting weeks later.

    Aaron Friedman
    @aaronfriedman

  2. Musangu Mbato

    May 26, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Let us get rich now with Millions of Dollars, contact me form more details: mbatomusangu@yahoo.co.za

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