Why Comments and Social Shares are Incredibly Overrated to Content Marketing Success

by Marcus Sheridan

I was reading an article entitled “8 KPIs Your Content Marketing Measurement Should Include” on the Content Marketing Institute blog the other day and was once again scratching my head as to why the author allowed social shares and comments to make his list of these critical metrics we’re supposed to be paying attention to as businesses.

Don’t get me wrong, the article was really good, and I thought the first 6 KPIs (key performance indicators) mentioned were dead-on. But social shares? Comments? As a KPI?

I’m going to say something here that rarely seems to get mentioned online:

Most industries aren’t very social.

There, it has now been said. :-)

Let’s really ask ourselves for a minute how we got into this comment/share mess in the first place. The reality is that we are a world living and breathing immediate gratification—real or not.

The Science Behind Why We’re Addicted to Comments and Social Shares

On a psychological and physiological level, what comments and shares really do is release a chemical in our bodies called dopamine—a temporary shot of happiness, the same type of feeling we get with alcohol, gambling, or even those little sounds our cell phones make with each new text or email message.

Don’t believe me? It’s true, just ask Simon Sinek, one of the foremost leaders in this area.

Recently I received an email from someone who was starting a home fitness blog/business and was quite depressed he wasn’t getting any comments. Because of this, he was contemplating if he should just “hang it up.”

My response was as follows:

Run a business man, not a club.

And don’t quit.

This gentleman was incredibly representative of so many other businesses that have set up a false god with comments and social shares and allowed themselves to lose sight of why they started writing and content marketing in the first place.

Real Numbers, Real Businesses

But enough of that, I want to talk about a few companies I’m working with and just how little they care about comments and social shares.

Many of you have heard me talk about Yale Appliance in Boston. Last year their sales increased by over 10 million dollars while stopping most regular forms of advertising and instead focusing on a tremendous content/email marketing campaign—with their blog setting the pace and dominating search engine results simply because they’re talking about things customers care about,  something few other companies are willing to broach.

But here’s the catch—if you look at Yale’s blog articles, there is something you see very, very little of—comments and social shares.

Yale Appliance

Huge success, few comments and shares.

Or let’s look at US Waterproofing and my friend Matt Stock. The guy has done amazing things in the basement waterproofing realm. His content is read by thousands and thousands of people. But if he gets more than a few likes and shares with each post, and maybe a comment here or there, then it’s unusual.

US waterproofing

US Waterproofing’s most popular article, shown above, has been read thousands of times and shared very little on social networks.

Or how about my other company, River Pools and Spas? Just look at the page below where I wrote about how much a fiberglass pool costs. Because it’s an actual “page” of the site and not a “blog” article, it has NEVER been liked, tweeted, or commented on. Currently though, my analytics are now showing that one page (article) accounts for about 1.7 million in sales since it was written four years ago. Fact is, most  blog articles at River Pools rarely crack more than a couple of social shares and maybe a few comments—often times not by consumers, but from those working in the industry.

River Pools

Real ROI

One of my newest clients who has produced over 150 blog posts in 3 months through insourcing, OnGoing Operations, has experienced incredible business gains already because of their content marketing—yet they almost never get comments or shares. But think about it, how often are people going to rush to Twitter or Facebook and share “How do DDoS Mitigation Services Work?

Ongoing Operations

Not the most “shareable” topic, is it?

I could literally go on and on with examples of clients that don’t allow social shares and comments to be KPIs whatsoever, but I’ll stop there, as I’m sure you get the point.

Content Marketing is about building your business, your brand, and your bottom line.

It’s not about comments and shares. And the minute it is, that’s when businesses lose their way and start allowing the false metric gods to dictate their success and focus.

Could comments and social shares be a byproduct of content marketing excellence? Yes, of course, and they can help things too.

But the keyword here is byproduct—not KPI.

Remember, it’s just dopamine running through our veins.

Your Turn:

A simple question for you today my friends: How would you rate comments and social shares as a KPI in content marketing? I’m sure we can all agree that the answer is “it depends,” but let’s see if we can’t dig a little deeper…

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{ 94 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Garrett February 6, 2013 at

Comments and shares tell you if you are “reaching” your desired audience.

Shares are obviously valuable because more people (hopefully the *right* people) get to see your stuff.

Are they the most important? No.

Can you drive your business without them? Of course.

Are they nice to have? Absolutely.

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Marcus Sheridan February 6, 2013 at

No question there is value in these numbers Chris, I agree with that. But would you consider comments and shares to be a KPI in the majority of industries?

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Chris Garrett February 6, 2013 at

Maybe not a K, but they are PIs ;)

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Chris Garrett February 6, 2013 at

They are something to keep your eye on rather than crucial measurements.

One additional point, comments and replies are a key source of customer insight. Encouraging feedback means you find out what your customers are struggling with, want, are looking for, objections etc.

But like exercise, you have to measure if you are improving rather than against the buff guy benching 300lbs ;)

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Lea Bailes February 6, 2013 at

The way I found your site was through a social share. Just saying.

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Marcus Sheridan February 6, 2013 at

I’m quite aware of my analytics from social shares Lea, and for this blog, social shares make up about 20% of the traffic.

But TSL is a VERY social industry. It’s the exception and in the minority.

I’m not saying social shares don’t have some value, my point is they’re not a legit KPI in a huge amount of industries.

Thanks so much for dropping by,

Marcus

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Jamie Alexander February 6, 2013 at

You definitely bring up a good point. Regarding the comments, I think you’re much more likely to get them from other bloggers.

On my blog I get much more emails than comments, and out of a few thousand visitors each month I get maybe one or two comments that aren’t from another blogger. So personally, I don’t mind that I don’t have much but I still think it’s a great way for people to ask a question if they want to.

You only have to look at the number of comments Copyblogger/Problogger get these days compared to traffic to see they don’t mean much. Copyblogger especially ’cause it’s a multi-million dollar company.

As for shares, if they bring in extra traffic I can’t see anything wrong with them. Are they essential? No, but social media is a decent way for people to find you who otherwise wouldn’t have.

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Ruth Zive February 6, 2013 at

Here’s how I characterize social shares and comments to my clients – they are a vehicle, a megaphone or a conduit. Content marketing is the message – it is what you want to herald, and social shares and comments provide a vehicle to do just that. They extend your reach and amplify your voice. So to some degree, you want more of them. But they are not a measure of your success.

Conversions. Now that’s the content marketing measure you want to track.

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Gemma W. February 7, 2013 at

“But they are not a measure of your success.”

It depends on how you define success. Success doesn’t always mean the same thing to every business.

For me, the number of social shares my articles receive is on my list of goals and it is one aspect of my blog’s overall success.

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Ruth Zive February 7, 2013 at

I suppose that’s true Gemma – I’m so immersed in the corporate sector where ‘success’ is ultimately a function of dollars and cents that this didn’t occur to me. But it certainly makes sense that some people may very well measure their success according to the number of social shares and comments.

So point well taken :-).

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

I understand what you’re saying Gemma, but let me push the other way for a second. It’s fine that you say social shares are on your list of goals. Great. But is it a KPI? KPI ultimately allow a business to pay it’s bills. Now granted, if someone is just writing to be heard, but not to turn a profit, then shares mean a lot.

Or look at Stumbleupon. Have you ever been Stumbled before? If so, you likely know it leads to a HUGE traffic spike and your bounce rate gets shot to heck…Here today, gone tomorrow.

Most people get excited about being Stumbled until they realize it’s generally a silly balloon with a hole in it.

To me, these shares, although “nice” and “fine” and “feel good” simply aren’t a KPI the majority of the time for most businesses.

Then again, I could be wrong about all of this and change my mind in 6 months :-)

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Gemma W. February 19, 2013 at

I noticed you didn’t say anything about converting some of that StumbleUpon traffic spike into paying customers. It’s important to be able to take advantage of the traffic you get from social media, by converting as many of these visitors into paying customers. That’s when social media can be a KPI.

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Marcus Sheridan February 20, 2013 at

That’s because Stumble Upon traffic, for the most part Gemma, is awful with an incredibly high bounce rate. Over 90% of the businesses in this world will never be “stumbled”….thus I simply don’t see it as a KPI whatsoever.

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Dominic Reyes February 6, 2013 at

Another nail, hit right on the head Marcus! Great post.

Best wishes
Dominic

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Thanks for the kind words Dominic, I do appreciate it. :-)

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Jon Loomer February 6, 2013 at

“Could comments and social shares be a byproduct of content marketing excellence? Yes, of course, and they can help things too.

But the keyword here is byproduct—not KPI.”

Right, this pretty much defeats my counter argument since I think we’re on the same page. The problem with comments and shares is that the value of one is not equal to the value of the other — and both can be faked and manipulated with bots.

And it absolutely does depend on the industry. Certain products and industries are meant to be social. Some are not.

Ultimately, you need your content to show up high in Google so that people go to your blog, then go to your product pages to buy stuff, right?

But keep in mind that comments and shares do contribute to Google search results. And you can bet these will be important for Facebook Graph Search.

So, I agree to a point. The true value of comments and shares is difficult to measure. And ultimately, you want a sale, not a comment or share.

But once you get out of a certain cluster of social-dead industries, it’s absolutely vital to get high quality (emphasis on high quality) comments and shares. This distribution and affinity will help more people find you, more people read your content and more people buy from you.

If no one is commenting on your content, isn’t it more likely that they are also spending less time on your website?

If no one is sharing, doesn’t that put the burden of distribution on your paid media?

I’m no SEO expert, but if you’re in a more social-friendly industry, wouldn’t it be far less likely that a product page or blog post would naturally appear on the first page of Google search results if you aren’t getting shares and comments?

And how many questions am I going to ask before I shut up already?

Good conversation starter, though.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Jon, this comment made me laugh, especially the last statement man ;-)

You already know my further thoughts on this because we chatted about it on your podcast, which, btw, was a lot of fun. You’re a great conversationist.

Appreciate you man and all your support.

Marcus

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Jon Loomer February 7, 2013 at

You bet, man. LOVED having you on the show. Going to publish it any minute (hopefully). Also in the process of moving my podcast to libsyn, so it’s a bit of a process!

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Jarom Adair February 8, 2013 at

The search engines are always looking for clues that a site has authority, and the number of shares/comments are a clue to the popularity of a site. So they certainly help your rankings.

But I’m finding that a vast majority of small businesses…

#1) don’t have enough of an audience to gather any substantial number of comments or shares and…
#2) are unlikely to ever be ranked highly in the search engines for any significant keywords because…
#3) search engines focus entirely on larger authority sites with a huge audience which most businesses don’t need to become to thrive. They just need a small, steady flow of new leads.

As such, I usually recommend businesses disable the comments and remove the social sharing links (because they’re ultimately a distraction and it looks bad if you have a bunch of zeros in there) and simply focus on inviting people to, say, join an email list.

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Demian Farnworth February 6, 2013 at

I think they are KPIs for what Christ Garrett said: am I targeting the right people? And what’s the benchmark for that industry? You wouldn’t use a social media blog to baseline your efforts, because that audience is skewed to sharing. So ten tweets might be good.

And you have to wonder: are your clients training their readers to like and comment? And is your client’s content worth sharing or commenting on? Production alone doesn’t merit a share or comment.

In the end its all about social proof and social recommendation. Keep in mind: comments and SM isn’t a campaign. They are stages in the sales/relationship funnel.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Demian, glad you stopped by, I do appreciate it. I actually feel like comments and social shares, often times, do a very bad job in showing us our audience. As we’ve mentioned, because those in our own industry tend to be the most vocal, they don’t represent the masses.

Frankly, I think a personal email from a reader has 100x the value than a comment or share–because that’s often times where the rubber meets the road.

But yeah, every industry is different. Fun debate though ;-)

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Henneke | Enchanting Marketing February 6, 2013 at

I’m with you, Marcus. There’s plenty of topics people don’t want to share on social media. You can have good content and get found in Google and still don’t get shares.

I believe it’s a marketer’s bias. That we, marketers, love sharing stuff about blogging, marketing and social media, doesn’t mean that other industries have the same desire to share.

The KPI that’s most important for me is profit. And if you have an email list, then the second most important is email subscribers. The power of email is often underestimated.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Henneke, GREAT point, you brought up a phrase that I should have made note of: Marketer’s Bias

Yep, that’s exactly it. Us marketers are some screwed up people :-)

Thanks a bunch,

Marcus

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Jason Hull February 6, 2013 at

On a somewhat related note, dopamine is starting to lose some of its luster as the brain’s drug of choice: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/feb/03/dopamine-the-unsexy-truth

Might be important for truly understanding people’s behaviors (to include the desire to share or be social).

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Ahhh, very nicely shared Jason. Thank you sir :)

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Jason Miller February 6, 2013 at

Great post Marcus. Really interesting topic. I think it really depends on the industry in this case and how competitive it is. With growing importance of Google taking these social shares/ social signals into account around relevance and rankings, I believe they do have an important role from and SEO point of view. As for comments, the additional keywords that are included in blog comments along with the power of a fresh comment’s ability to give a boost to a stale blog post is also something to keep in mind. Just my thoughts. Thanks!

Jason Miller – Marketo

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

I understand where you’re coming from Jason, but do those merit it being a KPI?

Take for example all the Marketo users out there…Is it smart to tell all these businesses:

If you’re blogging and producing content, and it’s not getting shared a lot and commented on, then you’re really missing a major KPI.

I say no way. The last thing I want a business living or dying on is metrics that mean very little.

And SEO, done right, will generally come out in the wash. Besides, it’s very up in the air just how much “social shares” factor into SEO anyway.

But, as with all of this, I could be completely wrong :-)

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Jason Miller February 7, 2013 at

Very good point Marcus. I would tell all the Marketo users out there to rely more on Marketo to disseminate and measure the value of their content marketing. That’s where the real value can shine through : )

Thanks for the reply, much appreciated!

Jason

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Murray Lunn February 6, 2013 at

Pretty spot on, Marcus, though I have a rebuttal (to some extent).

I know, from experience, that shares don’t truly matter when you’re getting conversions. I wrote a few overviews of a client’s product which has zero community interaction yet, due to tracking, I was able to see that it’s netted the company thousands of dollars. An article I whipped together in about 20 minutes has the power to do such a thing – it’s insane.

On the other hand, depending on your niche, a lot of people NEED to see some kind of social interaction. People are fickle in a lot of ways. They see a post that has zero shares and zero comments and they may very well think “well, if other people don’t like it – why should I?” and then move along.

It’s kind of curse that certain posts get so much exposure when there are so many better ones buried in the site. But, someone WILL find them and, if crafted the right way, can certainly do a lot more for your business than something that was popular.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Murray, great seeing you buddy. Now I’m going to rebut your rebuttal. :-)

Tell me the industries where people get turned off (as you stated) when they don’t see shares and likes? Where is the loss in sales?

Your turn sir ;-)

Marcus

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Murray Lunn February 8, 2013 at

Fair point, Marcus.

It may be my jaded nature since being online for such a long time that my natural reaction when I see content with very little shares that I shy away because I use it, in an unfortunate manner, as a threshold for my attention due to the fact that I want to get in and get out. However, I can bet to say that there are plenty of others like me.

I know for a fact that my perception is greatly different when shopping, especially in computer parts, if a product has just a few reviews – I need to hear what people have to say bout the ‘experience’ and, in some ways, this reflects with social shares.

It’s a bit like eating street food: go where the locals go.

Maybe I’m getting side tracked but I do feel that some individuals need to see validation to signify what lies ahead is worth their time, ya know?

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Darnell Jackson February 6, 2013 at

Excellent point however I have to say my experiment which I’m in the middle of now tells a different story.

I started a comment posting campaign late last year and noticed an amazing trend where people started opting in to my email list.

When I stopped posting comments the email sign ups stopped, when I started again they started again. Coincidence? I think not.

What I found is it works best when your comment is in the top 5 and you really take your time to add value to the discussion.

It also works especially well when you disagree with the writer, kinda like I’m doing now. :)

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Darnell, I agree that commenting can help people see you and want to learn about you. But this is the more important question in my opinion:

How many of those visitors converted into a client/customer?

I’m not doubting you, I’d really love to know.

Marcus

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Serges LaRiciere February 6, 2013 at

In my opinion the only thing that matters no matter what form of sales you do, radio, TV, newspaper, social media, inbound marketing, content marketing or standing on the corner and blowing a whistle to get attention is, does your phone ring. Does a prospect answer a CTA on your website, does someone come to your store from your sales efforts? If someone does not buy your product or service your out of business.
I personnel don’t care in the least if I get a comment or not, my goal is to write content that a prospective customer will read and think to himself, sounds like they know what there talking about, I think I’ll give them a call.
That’s it.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Amen, amen, and amen Serges.

And you, sir, are dead-on…and truly speak the voice of the business owner who has bills to pay.

I’m with you.

Marcus

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Heidi Cohen February 7, 2013 at

Marcus —

I agree that comments and shares aren’t strong measures of social media effectiveness especially in light of the ratio of participation: 90% of your audience is viewers or lurkers, 9% of your audience will do something small such as share and 1% of your audience will create content.

That said, they provide social proof. Further, these tracking devices have been used as a means of showing success.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

I’d like to dive into this social proof thing Heidi. How many people have said to you, “I’m hiring you because you get lots of comments.”

Personally, I’ve never had a single business tell me squat about my comments or share numbers. They never reference it. They are more interested in how I can help their business.

Do you know what I’m saying?

Marcus

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Heidi Cohen February 8, 2013 at

Marcus –

I agree comments and shares don’t necessarily correlate with website performance or business leads/sales. In other words, a lot of shares may not translate to lots of pageviews, especially if you give away the punchline in your title.

Further, comments like “Great post” don’t extend the conversation or help you achieve your blog objectives. (But I admit they do feel good!)

Beyond this, comments and shares provide subconscious proof before visitors ever get into your content the numbers register because they’re proof of activity. This can be important since people might share your content without reading it.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Danny Brown February 8, 2013 at

Hi there mate,

With regards the “business”, it depends on what you’re classing as business. In research for our book (talking to platform developers as well as brand managers), comments are very much a KPI for brands looking to connect with influencers.

The more active they see a community – and the more the blogger is encouraging that interaction, whether the activity is praise or criticism – the more likely a brand will reach out to connect.

The ability to have that instant focus group-style feedback is gold to brands, and they don’t have the ability to access private forums (where the true conversations are happening anyway).

So, in the grand scheme of things, a Fortune 50 company probably isn’t going to hire someone because their comment stream is jumping. But a brand manager working with influencer platforms to identify key people to connect with? Yep, it definitely does bring “business”

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2013 at

Danny, really appreciate all you added to the conversation my man, as always. And your example of brands using social as a KPI is an excellent one, although I would still say its one of those rare exceptions. This being said, I wonder if the trend of brands looking hard at social will ramp up or down in the coming years…

Thanks for all,

Marcus

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Sarah Schager February 11, 2013 at

But you’ve had people say to you “I’m hiring you because your heat map shows a lot of clicks in this area”?

No, you haven’t.

Furthermore, many companies have hired people because they know how to leverage social media to drive traffic and generate leads.

So this really isn’t a valid rebuttal.

I agree with you that not all businesses are meant to be socialized, and social shares aren’t always a valid KPI. However, for some businesses they certainly are.

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2013 at

The debate here isn’t about heat maps as a KPI Sarah, so honestly, I don’t understand the analogy.

Regarding companies that hire social media folks to generate leads, well we all agree on that. I’m one of those people. But again, the question at hand is about comments and shares as a KPI . Notice you didn’t say, “How many companies have hired a social media expert to increase their comments and shares.”

Plus, any expert of value would never roll in “shares and comments” metrics on any work order/contract IMO.

Danny Brown was accurate in his example of social as a KPI, but those types of businesses are far and away less than 5% of the world’s businesses.

All this being said, I could be totally wrong in 12 months ;-)

Thanks for stopping by,

Marcus

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Danny Brown February 11, 2013 at

I think you can probably get some bogus contractor on Fiverr that will promise to “send your shares through the roof”. Um, yep, okay. ;-)

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Gemma W. February 7, 2013 at

To make a point, I don’t often comment on blogs, but I often share excellent articles on social media, according to my interests.

Also, I found this article through a share on G+.

Whenever I read an article that has been published for a couple of days, and it has little to no social shares, I ask myself why. I start to doubt the credibility of the author, and even the blog if it’s the same across the board.

Social shares are at some level, a measure of credibility. So there’s something wrong if there are few social shares and the article has been published for a little while. It could be down to one of many things, such as not promoting it hard enough on the RIGHT networks, where the target audience are hanging out. Or not posting the kind of content that the target audience actually values. Or even something as simple as not getting the headline right.

Comments are one thing; it doesn’t faze me if the same article has no comments (and if having no comments is the norm for said blog then the comments should be turned off), but at the same time that can be off-putting for others.

If you’re in an industry that isn’t social, then perhaps you would be better off not having social sharing enabled.

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Danny Brown February 8, 2013 at

“If you’re in an industry that isn’t social, then perhaps you would be better off not having social sharing enabled.”

Nicely put, Gemma. Just like not everyone needs to blog, not everyone needs to be social.

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Walt Goshert February 7, 2013 at

Comments and social shares, in my experience marketing high-ticket, long sales cycle B2B products and services, get a half of an “I”.

IF… the metrics show a connection between this activity and end conversions, then, and only then, does it indicate importance.

Even marketing my own services B2B I’m seeing little, if any connection.

The overall strategy and processes of lead attraction, nurturing, conversion, and hand off to sales is much more important.

Of course, the only way to really have an educated opinion on this is to test it.

Why not run the same posts with and without social share buttons. Have comments on and off. Thing is, nobody does this.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Good points Walt. I think you represent the majority, especially in the B2B realm. The KPIs you mentioned are what it’s all about.

But yeah, an experiment like the one you mentioned wouldn’t be a bad idea :-)

Good seeing you man,

Marcus

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Ryan Hanley February 7, 2013 at

Marcus,

I read this article yesterday and I needed to think on my comment for a bit…

My feelings are this. I don’t think that I’ve done my job as a marketer on my insurance site if people are commenting…

I want them to 1) get a quote 2) download eBook 3) contact us with questions… Conversation about our business I want to take place in social spaces like Facebook. I don’t want clients or prospects communicating with my in a space that doesn’t capture their information.

So for my business comments and social shares don’t mean Shiz…

My thoughts…

Be good.

Hanley

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Now those are some KPIs my friend :-)

Keep pushing it buddy, and thanks so very much for all your support,

Marcus

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Joey Giangola February 8, 2013 at

Ryan,

I think that makes a lot of sense and everyone in our business should understand that.

However, having not been able to get this topic off my brain, what are your thoughts on comments serving as an avenue for our clients and prospects to communicate their story to us? (Marcus feel free to jump in)

Questions would be replaced with experiences. That would allow us to more easily identify their pain points and how address them.

As Derek Halpern says “You should eavesdrop on your customers.”

Like you said, at the end of the day you just want to get that quote in their hands, but if we had to leverage comments in the most efficient way, would that not be it?

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Ryan Hanley February 8, 2013 at

Joey,

I think that if the comments serve a business purpose and your content is meant to generate comments then I think comments are great. But if your blog is about education and information than I’m not convinced comments are important at all.

That’s the delineation for me.

Hanley

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Tom Martin February 7, 2013 at

I don’t know Marcus, think you’re making it to black and white here.

Certainly Shares/Comments probably don’t make sense as a corp level KPI, especially for the examples you used in this post.

However, I can think of a few instances when Shares would be a very appropriate KPI for a PAGE or POST. If you’re launching a new product or service for instance and you’re trying to rapidly grow awareness of that product/service. Then SHARES of a post, LIKES, etc. would certainly IMO be an appropriate KPI.

Also, given that Google factors social sharing in it’s ranking algorithm — especially if a person is logged into Google when doing a search — then the page that is shared/liked, etc., should do better in SERP.

Like most things in marketing, it’s contextual.

@TomMartin

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Well stated Tom. The thing about social shares and Google is that it’s all a mystery for us right now as to just how much it plays into this. Frankly, I don’t see Google, long term, wanting an algorithm that promotes the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. An algorithm that is driven mainly by that will get played like a fool, just as links have been for so long.

Then again, this is a whole other topic and article ;-)

Thanks brother, hope all is well in the bayou,

Marcus

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Tom Martin February 7, 2013 at

Where there are winners and losers there will always be a game right? ;-) it Will be interesting to see where Google goes with social shares as a signal for SERP, especially with FB’s latest move in search.

Things are well here, too bad you and the fam can’t be here for the parades. Your kids would love it!

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Brent Kelly February 7, 2013 at

Marcus,

Really enjoyed the post and comments (go figure:). I think your point on different industries is really important. In my insurance business I don’t worry much about comments and shares, but in my health business they are much more important.

One business is more technical and local and the other is more social with no boundaries. Thanks.

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Marcus Sheridan February 7, 2013 at

Glad you liked it Brent. You make a great point—every industry is different. We’ve all got to remember that, which is also why there are few set “rules” in the field of marketing…there are just principles.

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Andrea T.H.W. February 8, 2013 at

Marcus, you can’t say that! If you were right all those businesses around focusing on how important is to be social, and lose an incredible amount of time in the effort, would be useless.

So you mean losing half a day on Facebook and the other half on Twitter, and a couple of other websites, while writing at night isn’t the right way to go?

I’m not sure everyone will agree as social is the next gold mine, in theory. With so many courses and services around they can’t be all wrong, or can they?

Well, I’m not that social and I prefer to try to write more and better so I agree with you. Even if I like the occasional comment when it happens. But I’m having a good amount of traffic, for my niche at least, even without being really social and with little comments.

Might be that losing more time on FB or Twitter I could increase traffic more but I use that time to write.

Have a great weekend! :)

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Wade Balsdon February 8, 2013 at

Well this post has certainly got my head around quality content and forgetting about gaining shares and comments Marcus. Thanks for that. It spurs me on to hear that you can make $1.7 million in sales for swimming pools on one page of your site. You are an inspiration second to none sir!!

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Alex February 8, 2013 at

I think it depends on the purpose of the content. If it’s swimming pools, then it’s evergreen content. They wouldn’t need to share it with their friends.

Whereas if you have something very timely and relevant, then it will be widely shared. E.g. some thought-leadership on a tax-law change or something like that. It matters a lot to certain people in certain industries.

Maybe we should measure content differently depending on its purpose?

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Jarom Adair February 8, 2013 at

My issue with focusing on comments and shares as important KPI’s are that most people don’t get comments and shares, and for most people they’re a waste of time to pursue.

To get any significant number of comments and shares, you need a large audience and you need an “epic” post that will blow people away and make them want to share it. Those are the two ingredients to get you the best response.

But most business owners don’t have a large audience and they don’t really have the time to write epic posts. So that’s why I appreciate your article here Marcus.

And those businesses you cited above that are getting 0 comments and 0 shares should probably just remove those features from their site. It’s probably hurting their credibility more than helping it.

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Davina K. Brewer February 8, 2013 at

Like Ryan, I wanted to think on this a little while and mull the good comments here. All I can say to Tom Martin, Word sir, Word. :-)

Want to make my comment a reply to your discussions with Heidi and Lea. TSL IS a very social business, it is an exception. And as illustrated by Heidi the ‘social proof’ of shares as done by those who don’t even read the content, isn’t that the point of many clubs and cliques, groups and tribes – to artificially give credibility by gaming the numbers? And were it not for those numbers, would TSL or many social/marketing bloggers be where they are today?

Don’t misunderstand me Marcus, I know you and respect that you’ve worked your tail off and done some AMAZING things. H/T really! It’s just, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle isn’t it, one that creates these circles and chambers – Blogger makes good on SEO, catches eyes of Bigger Bloggers, cue linking and sharing, invites to conferences, bringing more readers, shares – and better search results. Which in turn, more clients, more posts, more conferences and so on.

I mentioned this exact thing the other day, think to Mack Collier, that social shares – high or low – do not a successful or unsuccessful blog mean, even in very social industries as ours. But the hard reality is that such social proof does speak to some, does ‘influence’ perception; see also Jon’s questions.

Gonna annoy you w/ an ‘it depends’ – for anyone selling ‘stuff’ products that are specific and searchable, yeah – inbound, CM FTW. But when it’s ‘concepts’ – ideas, solutions, consulting – it’s more difficult. Say you’re a chef or restauranteur, but no one is sharing or rating your recipes, no one is commenting on how great the service was or nice the meal .. doesn’t that social silence say something?

I AM agreeing w/ you.. they aren’t in the league of other KPIs but I also think it’s more than just for show. And FWIW, I like to think sometimes my wordy rambling comments are more than a happy byproduct. ;-)

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2013 at

Davina, I absolutely loved this comment. Seriously, thank you for chiming in and your talk about cycles(which is an article itself) was spot on, and deserves a much closer look.

I honestly think when all is said and done, the answer “It depends” will be the only one that withstands the test of time:-)

Thanks again,

Marcus

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Davina K. Brewer February 12, 2013 at

See what Danny said, some blogs don’t have any skin in that game one way or other so that MMV; and to Mario, HA! Yeah – it depends – that’ll always be an answer. FWIW Kinda rethinking that cycles thing. It’s actually building blocks or steps, each one leading to the next, momentum and all.. except somehow it seems gated or blocked w/out the requisite visible trappings of success? IDK.. work in progress, always. :-)

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Danny Brown February 8, 2013 at

Great conversation starter as usual, mate.

I think it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, truth be told. Do shares and comments count? Yes if you’re looking for validation that your content is hitting its stride with your audience. Not all blogs are set up as a lead generator – many are just personal thoughts with no other skin in the game. And if you see your content has been shared by the type of customer you’re going after… well, that’s a great lead right there that you would have missed otherwise.

Having said that, when you get a community-minded blogger like yourself, who takes pride (rightfully so) in responding to the majority of those who comment, then that inflates the numbers. 100 comments could be 40, which is a big difference and one that brands just looking at social proof would miss.

As Tom mentioned earlier, perhaps it’s a little black and white, since goals and how we measure are based on that moment in time versus a standard over time.

Cheers, sir.

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Neil Ferree February 10, 2013 at

My analogy goes like this; getting ranked on page 1 of Google won’t pay the Rent just like comments and social shares don’t guarantee a web visitor to a lead to a converted paying customer. But one without the other doesn’t exist.

Looking down the road 6-9 months, unless you have established your vetted credentials (ie) Authorship all the social shares in the world won’t matter much.

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2013 at

Interesting point Neil. This authorship thing is making the game even more interesting. We’ll see…

Appreciate you stopping by man,

Marcus

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Arnie Kuenn February 10, 2013 at

Hey Marcus,
Just read this (while in my hotel in San Diego) and thought I’d add one more comment to the abundance of comments above. I totally back everything you say in this. Not all industries are social. If social works for you, fine. But what really matters is traffic, leads and revenue. You are in business to make a profit – period. Anything else and you are probably a drain on society.

BTW – I still use your pool company’s turn around as a story in many of my presentations. See you on the road somewhere soon.
Arnie

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2013 at

Arnie, how are you brother? Great hearing from you man and I hope your speaking world tour is going well. I’m actually in Phoenix today speaking at an event.

But I love your point here man, and it’s one that needs to be said again and again and again—traffic, leads, and revenue. YES.

Marcus

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Arnie Kuenn February 11, 2013 at

Oh man, I am in San Diego today doing a content marketing workshop at OMS. Next time!

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mario monk February 11, 2013 at

Just read an article: “How to get rid of hemorrhoids.”

Was it helpful? Hell yes.

Will I share it with my followers? Thanks, no! :-)

See – not all industries are sharable.

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Marcus Sheridan February 11, 2013 at

That was officially hilarious Mario! ;-)

Thanks for the laugh,

Marcus

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Davina K. Brewer February 12, 2013 at

H/T sir! +1 for comment of month? year?

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mario monk February 13, 2013 at

Thanks you both, Marcus and Davina!

Feel’s good to receive an award for commenting! :)

P.S. will keep my eye on Sales Lion blog. Looks worth sticking around. Thanks!

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Rajkumar Jonnala February 11, 2013 at

The main point is that we tend to think that the content gets noted only when there are comments on it or social media shares on it.

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Scott Ayres February 11, 2013 at

With the introduction of Graph Search by Facebook Likes, Comments and Shares could become rather important though. So I would still encourage them.

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Christina Pappas February 11, 2013 at

Our goals related to blogging and content marketing are all tied to how much we produce. We must publish x posts per week and x new pieces of content by quarter. Yes, we look at conversions & sales in addition to this but it’s most important that we keep churning great content out there for our audience.

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Hector Avellaneda February 11, 2013 at

Lion!

Dude – it is no understatement when I say this, you probably just made a lot of people, happy! I know I am.

Yeah, I think this is something that a lot of people, especially bloggers, have an issue detaching from. I’ve read Simon Sinek’s book and, of course, as Simon mentioned, it has to do with out ‘biological (not psychological) need to belong to a group or a clan.

I love what you said though – ‘Build a business, not a club’. I think this is an awesome perspective. The more we can concentrate on building a business, creating products and servicing our customers, and not on being popular in the social media waves, in the end I agree that this will allow us to be more successful.

By the way – I commented on this post because I think it was deserving of it! :)

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Nenad February 12, 2013 at

Hi Marcus,

interesting points. But I think comments (if they’re not of a “great post, dude” kind) can be very valuable. I wouldn’t discard them. It means somebody felt he/she had sth valuable to add to the conversation. What I find interesting in my case is that readers are reluctant to leave a comment on the blog (I don’t think I ever got a comment), but they email me with questions or asking for business proposal or rather leave a comment on my FB page. Interesting, right?

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Marcus Sheridan February 12, 2013 at

Happen all the time. In fact, the percentage that some could be classified as a potential client goes up drastically with emails versus comments.

Keep in mind Nenad this post, though, isn’t a knock on comments. I believe in their value strongly….just not as a KPI. There is a difference IMO. :-)

Marcus

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Jamie February 12, 2013 at

Good stuff Marcus,
I never looked at it that way.

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Laura Hill February 12, 2013 at

Hi Markus,
I love this article but not because it was somewhat controversial but because you provided excellent real world examples of using content marketing for more run of the mill, not so sexy businesses! This is so helpful to see the results that you have been able to generate for your clients based on creating good, targeted content and communicating that content. I love it.
As for comments and shares…there is a case for both being pretty important when you are talking about businesses that are social like real estate, restaurants and mom and pop shops. These are social enterprises so mastering the online social experience could be a KPI for them. Just a thought.
Delighted to have discovered your site. Thanks so much!
Laura

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Rick Whittington February 14, 2013 at

Marcus,

I would agree that a share isn’t worth a great deal for many B2B businesses. Sharing is one of those things that we include because it can help with reach, but social sharing is often random and you can’t control if the content will actually “hit” your target audience.

Case in point is our own blog. We probably get more social shares that a lot of companies, but when an article we write gets shared, we often get crappy leads from the social share because it goes to an international audience we don’t serve or an audience that can’t afford our services.

Social shares are both a blessing and a curse.

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at

Well said Rick. The cool thing is that you’ve taken the time to notice the trends— as most folks don’t even pick up on that.

Continued success,

Marcus

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Andrea February 15, 2013 at

“when an article we write gets shared, we often get crappy leads from the social share because it goes to an international audience we don’t serve or an audience that can’t afford our services.”

That’s a really good point, Rick.

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Andrea February 14, 2013 at

Thank you! This is a topic that’s been on my list of things to blog about for awhile.

Here’s where my perspective comes from: I’ve been blogging since around 2000 but I’ve never blogged for sales or “business” purposes- though I do post about affiliate programs. I read a ton of blogs of all kinds.

I was recently interviewed with a recruiter for a job as “personal evangelist”. The position involved social media posting and blogging. One of the interview questions that the recruiter asked me on her client’s behalf was “What do you do when your blog isn’t getting comments?” Immediately it occurred to me that the client had it wrong (something I’d already suspected). I could have given a bullshit answer to get the job, and younger me might have, but I’m an expert and a professional and he was wrong. Instead my answer was that comments are overrated and I told her why.

I don’t see lack of comments as failure or disinterest.

I currently maintain two personal blogs. My food blog is nearly 5 years old, my business blog – the one my name links to above this comment – is four months old. I often get shares without comments. I have friends who comment on my blog posts not online or via shares, but when they see me in person. I have friends who introduce me as a great blogger. I was invited to sit on a panel of bloggers once. PR companies find me and pitch to me.

Now granted, I think that more people read my tweets than my blogs, but that’s a whole other discussion. I once tried to get more comments on my blog entries by making it into a game: I tweeted asking people to go to my food blog and comment on any post that resonated. It didn’t work, but it’s not something I’ve given up on.

I think that blog views, comments and shares all have their place in determining success but no one metric tells the whole story.

In the end, metrics, social shares and comments serve two purposes:
1. Ego massage/validation.
2. Conversion to sales, if you’re blogging for business.

I am mildly envious that my comment is #80.

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at

Andrea, you get my vote for awesome social media job candidate of the year!! Seriously, awesome!!! :-)

Marcus

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Andrea February 15, 2013 at

Thanks! I’m available for hire. :)
And I posted a blog entry based on this post which CommentLuv will show you.

I checked out your list of services and process and filed this information away under “business ideas”. Need any content writers?

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Kacie @ Savvy Sassy Me February 15, 2013 at

I actually disagree with this. I think it depends on your industry and the type of content you present to your audience. Many bloggers and websites are essentially selling the content of their words… and not a product on top of that. Therefore, social shares and comments is the essence of their page.

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Brian Jensen February 16, 2013 at

You make some great points here Marcus. I do believe engines are increasingly looking at social engagement as not only a trust signal but also a ranking factor (we’ve all seen posts with an influx of social rank highly for a period for relevant queries), but at the end of the day, what’s really important are outcomes.

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Louie February 20, 2013 at

I’d rather provide value to my tribe (and earn $ as a result), than be a comment whore. Was that too harsh? Comments are nice too, but they won’t pay the bills

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Marcus Sheridan February 20, 2013 at

I don’t think it’s too harsh at all Louie, just the truth of the matter.

Thanks much for stopping by,

Marcus

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Neil Ferree February 25, 2013 at

I’m keeping on eye on how contextual co-citations impact and influence how ones authorship and rel=author affect where my contents shows up in the SERPs

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Seo Specialist in Dubai April 19, 2013 at

Google like unique and fresh content. i like your work all content is fresh and unique all points in details.

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Tirso February 12, 2014 at

Engagement in general can still be a KPI.
How you measure engagement might differ per business.
But I could agree that dissecting engagement and measuring each element as a KPI can be irrelevant

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