Scoring Social Content and Performance - How, Why, and Why Not

As an analyst, I do come across quite a few tactics and techniques that brands and individuals adopt to measure their performance online. Some are great, some are unusual, some are simply innovative, and some are downright bizarre.

One method that seems to be quite popular is what I like to call "weight for action": assigning weight (or a score) to the main social interactions, and using that to create a scoreboard for owned content as well as competitors'.

While there isn't a universal scoreboard for social posts, they mostly look like this:

  • Clickthrough (CTR): 1 pt
  • Like/Favourite: 2 pts
  • Comment/Mention: 3 pts
  • Share/Retweet: 4 pts

Let's say, for argument's sake, that a Facebook post received 2 clickthroughs, 1 like, 4 comments and 3 shares. To calculate that post's engagement score we'd follow this formula (based on the scorecard above):

(2 CTRs x 1) + (1 Like x 2) + (4 Comments x 3) + (3 Shares x 4) = 28 points.

That seems logical, but the question is - does your content do as well as the score you give it?

Settling the Content Score

First of all, let's look at that score again. 28 points. If I told you that your post had 28 points, what would that mean to you? By the same logic, if I told you that your main competitor's latest points only had 20 points it should technically be a good news, right? Wrong.

Let's look at the bigger picture:

  • Value: as this scoring system was introduced mainly to benchmark and compare your posts against your average content performance, as well as against your competitors, ask yourself - do two posts with the same points have the same value? Do 28 clickthroughs have the same value as 14 likes? Do 14 likes have the same value of 7 shares? No two social interactions are equal, and context is always needed when comparing two scores this way.
  • Purpose and context: still looking at your post with 28 points - does your post that generated 28 points have the same value as one of your competitor's posts with 28 points? What if your competitor gained 28 points from one post because that one post helped generate 28 clickthroughs to their site, with 25% of those CTRs resulting in sales, hence achieving the goal's original purpose?
  • Virality: while Virality is an engagement metric that Facebook ditched back in August-September in favour of engagement rate, it's still important to look at how Virality can influence your posts and the engagement they receive. If I share your Facebook post [X], I'm creating a post [Y] that has your post embedded. My friends and followers then have the option to either engage with my post [Y] or your post [X]. Scoring posts just for the engagement you see on [X] means that you're ignoring the viral interactions created by [Y]. I could be someone very influential with thousands of friends and followers and as a consequence [Y] gets more exposure and more engagement - perhaps even more than your post [X]. Oftentimes you'll find these "second-hand interactions" being more than the interactions present on the original post. If you're scoring your posts for engagement but you're missing those viral interactions, you'll be severely undercounting your content's performance.

Other factors come into the picture as well, such as sentiment and other types of engagement that are not part of the "scoring system". For instance, that scorecard we mentioned before doesn't take into account tags: most, if not all, viral pictures have tags, which are often seen as a quick way of alerting friends that you've seen something worth checking out. Ignoring these tags will result in under-counting the interactions that your post had.

Now, we can pick all the imperfections that this method has all day, but it's useful to realise that this method originated from a need, the need for marketers to quantify the performance of their content, and ultimately make comparisons between their own content and other similar/competitors' pages. It doesn't help that the seemingly-useful-but-actually-unhelpful PTA(T) metric (People Talking About This) is being phased out by Facebook and replaced by the more believable Engagement Rate, a metric that, unlike PTA(T), is only available to page owners for their own pages. In other words, Facebook seems to have made it even harder to quantify your performance against your competitors at a quick glance. Well, so it seems.

So, this raises two questions:

  • How do you successfully quantify the performance of your content, and ultimately of your social media efforts?
  • How do you perform an accurate competitive analysis?

I'm going to tackle these two questions in my next two blog posts, coming from two perspectives:

  • using free tools (if you have little to no budget)
  • using premium tools (my tool of choice here is SimplyMeasured).

On to the next blog post...


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