The 10 Most Misleading Social Media Metrics in the World

by Marcus Sheridan

Numbers. You want them. I want them. We all want them.

But there is a big problem with all these social media numbers that are soooo important to the success of your business—many don’t mean squat.

In other words, a number, no matter how high it is, is worthless to a business unless it leads to more sales and customers, period.

So that’s what this article is about. And frankly, I expect many of you will want to disagree with my following thoughts, to which I happily invite you to call me an idiot and make your thoughts known in the comments section below. :-)

The 10 Most Misleading Social Media Metrics in the World

1. Alexa

Ahh yes, Alexa, our favorite traffic indicator and a metric that finds itself on almost every social media geek’s toolbar in the world. I’ve discussed the gross inaccuracy that is Alexa before, but let me point out a quick example of why this tool is so grossly out of tune for those that worship its readout.

As of today, 5/30/2012, the Alexa Ranking for The Sales Lion is 46,500 and averages 900-1200 visitors a day on the site. My other site, River Pools and Spas, has an Alexa ranking of about 230,000 (keep in mind the higher the Alexa ranking, the worse it is) and averages 2000-4000 visitors a day. And why is there such a gross inaccuracy? Because Alexa is extremely flawed, that’s why.

Moral of the story? Stop worrying about Alexa, stop comparing your site so much with others, and start focusing on numbers that are actually accurate.

2. Klout

Maybe I should just bring in Danny Brown to discuss Klout for a minute but let me just say this—I still, to this day, do not know my Klout Score. I also don’t want to know your Klout score. Why? Because if there ever was a mannequin in digital form, it’s Klout—a soulless representation of the worth, or should I say “influence” of a real person. Yeah, I get the appeal. And yes, I see why so many companies are sucked in by the facade, but that doesn’t mean that you or I need to join such an empty movement. Here’s an idea– Let’s judge others by their real qualities, their real works, and the feelings we get when we actually converse with the real person. (image credit)

3. Twitter Followers

It kills me when I see someone bragging about how they reached 100k Twitter followers, only to find out they’re also following, in return, 100k people. In my book, that’s called “twitter trading” and it’s a stupid business model and certainly nothing to yap off about.

Yes, Twitter followers do indicate, in some ways, one’s influence. But the more important number is the followers to follow-back ratio. In other words, let’s say someone has 20,000 Twitter followers but they themselves also follow 19,890 people. Would you say that person has more “influence” than the person that has 5,000 followers but only follows back 400 people?

To me, the latter has shown a much greater “influence” or “fan base” than the person with 4x as many followers.

Oh, and lest I forget services like Usocial that have made a business out of selling empty twitter followers to companies dumb enough to actually buy them.

Sad...but true.

4. Likes, Tweets, Shares

This one makes me laugh every time, because there are literally folks in this world who think stuff doesn’t get read online unless it has been socially shared a million times. I’ve discussed this in great depth before, but here’s an example. By looking at the following image, how many times would you say this article (on my swimming pool site) has been read?:

Silly Social Media Numbers

Wow! Look at those awesome social media numbers!

If you guessed this article has been read over 60,000 times and produced hundreds of thousands in sales (read how I measure this ROI number here), then you’re right.

Notwithstanding, most folks will look at these 4 likes and 1 tweet and think the article is a failure.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take hundreds of thousands in sales any day of the week over a few social media numbers I’ll never, ever be able to take to the bank on Fridays.

5. Fans

Fans are fine. Fans are nice. But having a Facebook fan, just as with “tweets” and “likes”, doesn’t mean profits. Just as General Motors pulled their 10 million dollar ad campaign on Facebook, the ROI (return on investment) of Facebook advertising and fans will be a hotly debated subject in the months and years ahead.


Remember that article I wrote entitled “10,862 Comments Later I Realize Blog Comments are NOT a Business Model”? Well, I stand by those words today more than ever. Just as I stated before, I appreciate blog comments. I love discourse, especially when it’s between readers. There is also much knowledge and inspiration that can be derived from a comment section.

Notwithstanding these things, many businesses and blogs have utterly failed, despite their large number of comments. Why? The main reason is because commenters are often times not paying customers. Granted, this varies by niche, but it’s reality.

And for those that want to know where the interaction with actual paying customers occurs, I’d suggest your business start an electronic newsletter and build your email list—the true hidden community of any blog.

7. Video Testimonials

This one may not be considered a true “social” metric, but I wanted to list it anyway. Fake video testimonials are officially rampant on websites all over the globe. The main reason for this is the proliferation of sites like Fiverr (which I’m a fan of btw) that offer any service under the sun, one of which is free video testimonials for any product, any company, and any piece of junk out there.

Fake Fiverr Videos

Yep, it used to be you actually had to "earn" video testimonials for your company.

8. Pinterest

Jay Baer wrote a great article on this recently but thus far, Pinterest traffic, in most realms, is a joke (from a conversion standpoint). As quickly as a Pinterest referral hits your site, it’s often gone. This isn’t necessarily a knock on Pinterest nor its value, but my main point here is that going gaga over a rush of Pinterest traffic is silly—at least until you’re able to see how that traffic converts into leads.

9. StumbleUpon (and others like it)

I had the funniest conversation with my friend John Falchetto recently  when he told me how he hates it when his blog gets “stumbled” because it kills his bounce rate and generally equates to zero business.

I have to say, John is not alone in his assessment of StumbleUpon. Yeah, sure it can send a bunch of people to your site in a short period of time, but if none of those folks turn into actual leads, have you really accomplished anything? (Are you noticing a trend here?? ;-) )

10. Viral Video

OK, so you got a ga-billion views on YouTube—great—but how many new customers came from it?

I’m of the opinion it’s silly to spend major effort on creating anything with the sole purpose of going “viral”. Rather, instead of trying to go viral, attempt to be helpful. Try to think exactly like your end-user (customer) and answer their questions, needs, etc.

I’ve produced hundreds of videos over the last few years for my businesses. None have gone “viral”, yet many have produced leads and sales—which again, is what really matters if you’re living in the world called “Running a Business.”

Your Turn

So those 10 social media metrics I feel are grossly misleading and often misinterpreted. Now I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which ones do you agree/disagree with? Why? Also, what are some other metrics you feel should be added to the list?

Jump in friends, let your voice be heard.

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