According to my (conservative) estimates, I’ve turned a light switch on/off over 50,000 times in my life. I’ve also plugged and unplugged various electronics many times over the years. Not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty good at using electricity.
Given all of this experience, I’ve decided to offer a new service outside of clinical research. I’m becoming an electrician! I’m so excited about this new endeavor that I’ll even come to your house and rewire it for free.
Use Alone Is Not Enough
I’m guessing no. And that’s a wise choice. I am the wrong person to be fiddling with electrical wiring. (If you need help with digital strategy for clinical research, however, that’s something I do very well.)
Use of electricity does not make me an electricity expert. Similarly, use of social media does not qualify someone to be a social media marketer. Here’s a quick example.
College students are very good at using Facebook. Give most college students an iPhone full of party photos, and they will probably upload and tag those photos with great efficiency and dexterity. That doesn’t mean all college students are qualified to direct my company social media presence (or yours).
If you want to be successful with social media, the bottom line is this.
Be prepared to learn social media marketing or hire someone who does, whether within or outside of your organization. Too few in clinical research take this step, and they are getting suboptimal returns as a result.
To better illustrate my point, I’ll describe how lack of social media marketing expertise is leading many clinical researchers astray. And in the process, you’ll learn some important things about Facebook marketing as well.
The “Like” Trap
One word we often hear in clinical research is “metrics.” What you hear less about, however, is choosing the right metrics to measure your performance. And that’s what needs emphasis.
Measuring success according to the wrong metrics can be just as detrimental as not measuring at all. You are what you measure. So choose wisely.
A great example of metrics gone wrong (not just in clinical research) is the Facebook “like.”
The concept of a like is simple and highly visible to Facebook users. And that’s exactly why people less familiar with Facebook marketing tend to latch onto likes as a metric.
Some people get so attached to likes, in fact, that they actually purchase them. Aside from the fact that this practice is sketchy, it’s also very short-sighted. To use a U.S. idiom, purchase of Facebook likes is a classic instance of “the tail wagging the dog.”
Why Likes Lead Clinical Researchers Astray
What’s simple and visible to users is not necessarily what you should be focusing on as a social media marketer. In fact, overemphasis on likes will often lead you astray. Here’s 3 big reasons why:
- Your focus should be on metrics that are tied to your goals.
Are likes the best indicator that you are achieving your goals? It depends. But many clinical researchers never ask this question.
- Likes are only the beginning of your social media relationship.
Organizations that overemphasize likes tend to drop the ball when it comes to properly maintaining that relationship.
For example, if your goal is patient recruitment, you need to have a plan to convert likes into clinical research participants. And you need to have metrics in place that measure that conversion process. Otherwise, you are wasting time and precious patient recruitment resources.
- Likes are not as valuable as you think they are.
According to Facebook, only 16% of fans see each brand page post. Additionally, third party studies suggest this percentage tends to decrease as you get more fans.
The last of these reasons deserves additional explanation.
The Little Algorithm That Could (Make Or Break Your Page)
Few fans see each brand page post because of a Facebook algorithm called EdgeRank.
In essence, EdgeRank ranks items in the Facebook News Feed. The higher an item’s EdgeRank, the more likely it is to show up in a user’s feed. Conversely, the lower an item’s EdgeRank, the less likely it is to show up in a user’s feed.
If you do not understand how EdgeRank works, your messages are probably showing up in fan news feeds less than the 16% number cited by Facebook. And if you do understand EdgeRank, well, you’re probably not reading this post. Instead, you have your feet up on your desk and are basking in the glory of kicking butt on Facebook.
I’ll do a followup post that goes into more detail about EdgeRank. You’ll learn the formula and get a detailed explanation of its key components. And you’ll get some actionable tips on how to use EdgeRank to your advantage. To find out about this future post (and all others on our blog), sign up for our newsletter.
In the meantime, the key takeaways regarding EdgeRank are:
- There is much more to Facebook marketing than likes.
- The “much more” is not visible to ordinary users.
- Understanding the “much more” is what allows you to improve your Facebook presence by leaps and bounds.
These statements are about Facebook, but they apply to all social media platforms. There is more to social media marketing than what meets the eye of a social media user. EdgeRank is but one example of that fact.
Am I suggesting you shouldn’t track likes? Absolutely not. But your social media sun should not rise and set for Facebook likes. They are only the beginning. Furthermore, do not be seduced by the allure of fan quantity. In social media marketing, quality is far more powerful.
So what other metrics should you be looking at?
Metrics Gone Wild: Show Those Metrics
There is no single answer to this question. As I mentioned before, the right metrics depend on your goals. And you have hundreds of metrics to choose from.
Having said that, I’ll describe a few Facebook metrics that, generally speaking, are more helpful than likes. In contrast to likes, these metrics better account for the quality of your fans, as well as the power of EdgeRank.
The purpose in describing these metrics is not to be exhaustive or provide recommendations, but to give you a taste for new and better metrics possibilities.
Metrics In The Facebook Insights Dashboard
Facebook provides free analytics via the Facebook Insights dashboard. To view this dashboard, visit your page and click the Insights link on the left hand side. If you are just getting started with Insights, check out Facebook’s free guide.
Here are a couple of metrics you will find in the Facebook Insights dashboard:
No need to make guesses about whether your messages are reaching fans. The aptly named reach metric is the number of unique people who have seen content associated with your Facebook Page. Look at reach in totality or according to individual posts.
Engagement metrics are very important. They help you understand the quality of your fans. In addition, optimization driven by engagement metrics will help you properly leverage EdgeRank (which will be detailed in a future post). One example of an engagement metric, engaged users, tells you how many people clicked on a post.
Beyond The Facebook Insights Dashboard
Though the Facebook Insights dashboard is a great place to start, it has a few significant disadvantages. The dashboard only offers a partial analytics picture, lacks customization options, and has mediocre presentation of data.
For this reason, at Rebar Interactive we use raw data to calculate and present our own metrics. This process allows us to better customize metrics according to goals, discover important patterns, and present data in a manner that’s more actionable.
One example of a calculated metric is negative feedback percentage. It’s the percentage of people exposed to your post that gave it some kind of negative feedback. Negative feedback percentage is useful for honing in on content strategy imbalances.
Clinical researchers often make the mistake of over-posting patient recruitment messages, without balancing those messages with other content. Negative feedback percentage is one way to identify such problems.
Metrics Gone Awesome
After reading this post, you should have a good understanding of why proper expertise is so important in social media marketing.
Aside from this general point, you now have a nice introduction to Facebook marketing. You know why likes can lead clinical researchers astray, understand the importance of EdgeRank, and have sampled the sweet taste of new metrics possibilities.
Congratulations! You now know more than most clinical researchers about Facebook marketing. If you need additional assistance, Rebar Interactive can help with social media (or any digital marketing).
Among other social media services, we provide analytics expertise with an emphasis on actionability. Rebar Interactive can help you focus on metrics that matter, as well as provide more advanced monthly reporting that is not available via the Facebook Insights dashboard.
To learn more, check out our services related to social media in clinical research.