Measure Your Audience Quality, Not Quantity

January 11, 2017 Lacey Miller

Somewhere along the way, PR strategy turned to quantity-based measurements to assess campaign performance. Many rely on the belief that if you get a high number of impressions, clicks, likes, etc. that means that the audience finds your messages compelling and relevant. But there is strong evidence that this numbers based PR measurement does a lousy job detecting real engagement and buying behavior.

It’s Natural to Focus on Quantity

To a certain extent, it is true that more is better. A good example of this in the context of social media. Who doesn’t want more followers and more likes? That is engagement. And there are definitely advantages to impressive social media stats. People like to follow those who are being followed. Leading to the hope that more followers will get you more followers. Then sending that tweet to 8,000,000 followers (even if many of them aren’t potential buyers) will draw some kind of quality engagement, right?

But this thinking illustrates a limited piece of the picture. The problem is that the number of followers and likes does not, by itself, correlate to tangible value. Because many of your likes may be from disengaged users, these numbers don’t necessarily even reflect the level of brand awareness. And your boss is asking about the correlations to revenue. That’s why the type of followers you have is far more important than the number.

The 80/20 Rule

There’s a theory, called the Pareto, that gets applied in all sorts of ways that says about 80% of your results will come from 20% of your invested input. For example, roughly 80% of your organization's productivity comes from 20% of its employees.

That's an extreme simplification; it doesn't work for everything, but it is useful when thinking about the audience of your target publications. In short, some audience members are more valuable than others. The vast majority of readers tend to passively consume information without ever becoming actively engaged. But, some are very well connected influencers and frequently interact with articles, click through to your website, and may even amplify the content and messages.

Something to think about. A publication could tout millions of readers, but if those readers aren’t interacting with your content and sharing your messages, you haven’t really got much. Your focus needs to be on the publications with an active audience. This is why we focus on several metrics in TrendKite that make-up impact, including social sharing, which we greatly value. It’s one thing to have “eyeballs”; we see a lot of poorly performing articles that have a “high readership”, but no one ever interacts, so how valuable is that really?

Imagine this, you’ve been ramping your PR strategy for months and you are confident you’ve been killing the competition, but when you run a search, it looks like your competition is smoking you in mentions. That’s not the stat you wanted to report to your executive team. But remember, we’re talking about quality over quantity...a deep dive reveals that your mentions are actually far superior to your competitors. So, in terms of brand impact, website traffic, and real bottom line results, you are doing supremely better than your competitor! Now THAT is the story you want to tell.

Quality Measures Enhance the Dashboard

Audience quality metrics are a strong way to understand the effectiveness of your social media, PR, and marketing strategies, giving you real insight into audience loyalty and affinity for your brand.

When organizing audience quality metrics, consider:

  • The percentage of returning users
  • Frequency of interactions
  • What % of posts get shares or retweets
  • Sentiment
  • Social referrals

Of course, one of the reasons that PR teams and marketers are so quick to jump on quantity rather than quality of the audience, is the latter is not as easy to find. But it’s part of today’s best PR measurement software solutions, Google Analytics, or some can be tracked with free tools.

Content is a Feedback Loop

Of course understanding how to measure the quality of your audience is only the first step. In order to keep and make the most of your biggest fans you need to connect with them regularly. After all, they are the ones who are increasing traffic and driving engagement, so you need to support them and remember that a turnabout is fair play. Keep them engaged, be sure to:

  • Recognize comments and thank them for sharing your content
  • Reply quickly when they ask a question
  • Feed them new, relevant and interesting original and shared content
  • Ask for referrals
  • If they are content creators, promote their posts when appropriate for your audience
  • Check out their cross brand engagement to see what else is of interest

As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Sure, you want to manage the size of your audience, but managing quality will be a whole lot more meaningful in terms of its impact on your business goals.

About the Author

Lacey Miller

Passionate about public relations and empowering practitioners, Lacey Miller found her dream job at TrendKite, where she carries the crown of 'word nerd'. With a background in public relations and technology, she's a great fit with her desire to innovate the industry! You can find her most days writing for PR Forward, PRSA, and other marketing trade publications.

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