I would call it the age-old debate, but quite frankly it’s rather modern: What’s the more desirable result of social media, obtaining an audience through page views or engaging with that audience? If you think about it, we can make more in advertising revenue with more page views, and we aren’t necessarily obtaining page views simply by engaging with our followers.
If it sounds like I tried to set you up there, it’s because I did. Please allow me to make a brief tangent:
I used to hold a job in which one of my secondary duties was to manage the organization’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. It had established itself on social media shortly before I took the position, and I was encouraged to boost our following. Therefore, I used Google Analytics to strategize the best times to post our content or relevant news stories, with the ultimate goal being to drive traffic to the website.
Well, that was pretty dumb.
Toward the end of my tenure I took some J-school classes that emphasized social media, and I really started reading up on the medium. I soon discovered the importance of engaging with an audience across social media platforms; in addition to raising brand awareness, you’re going to fall behind your competitors if you don’t seek engagement.
(Humble brag: The website actually saw a 33 percent increase in page views. I’m sure there was some benefit to this, but the true value, of course, comes from audience engagement.)
However, we can track a number of different interactive metrics, far beyond page views and engagement. A couple examples include return rates and conversion success, i.e. the number of visitors who buy your company’s T-shirt.
But what about traditional journalists? They don’t sell clothing! As Meena Thiruvengadam notes, page views are certainly important, but (in addition to social shares) journalists should be more concerned with how many of those visits turn into comments on the story.
Gregory Galant does a nice job offering both perspectives on the matter, bringing up reasons why the share is perhaps overrated, such as the uncertainty as to whether someone actually read the article before sharing and, on a related note, the potential that friends/followers of the initial sharer will follow suit—it’s the domino effect. However, Galant counters with a handful of arguments in favor of the social share, one of which I believe to be the strongest in validating the share:
We do it on purpose!
That’s right, regardless of whether we mindlessly read the article or pored over every word, when we share a link we’re enabling all of our friends/followers the opportunity to engage with the material.
Page views are absolutely a valuable metric for companies, journalists and the like; however, a social share is simply worth so much more. In a way, we could think of it as a debate of quantity versus quality.
Huh, maybe it is the age-old debate after all.