I've done it. It's gone. Cold turkey. After years of asserting we need to measure what matters in social business - as opposed to just tracking outcomes we can count easily - I decided to take down the social sharing counter on my blog. You can still share our blog items on social media tools - please do! - but we won't be quantifying every act of sharing anymore.
Walking the talk? Well, the fact is my social sharing tool was unreliable. When the Leader Networks site re-launched about a year ago, we "lost" all our counts. Thousands of tiny emotional validations which confirmed what we say to our readers matters all disappeared. I mourned the loss. Then my trusty tech team went to work, and soon those big braggy bunches of tweets and likes were back. All better now, I thought.
But as I went on banging the drum of what really matters in social business on stages and talk shows, at conferences and with clients, I realized I had developed a little social sharing addiction. I knew those numbers were not meaningful, but when I posted on the blog I would peek at those numbers over the days that followed. They influenced my satisfaction with my writing. I would feel proud when my posts would trend, and discouraged when they didn't make a big social bang. I would even tweak a perfectly good post here or there in hopes of improving its numeric fate. Just a few weeks ago, I had a post reach 18,000+ views on LinkedIn Pulse overnight. That was fun, but a closer examination of the comments suggests many people didn't actually read the article or understand it. Did I achieve my business goals with that post? You tell me....
I went back to my poor tech team who spent hours restoring my broken social share counter and asked them to drop it. They understood and agreed with the decision when I explained why. If my own behavior is any measure, those little counters have created an army of modern marketing monsters who write for the "hit" and not the POV. The share-counter drug is distracting writers everywhere as they focus on the spinning numbers to "prove" their worth, all the while losing sight of the real business purpose of thought leadership.
During this journey over the past year, I've seen how social share counts don't matter the way we think they might. This is especially true in the business-to-business world, where decisions are complex and the most valuable leaders and audience members don't work in a non-stop social sharing environment. Even if my thoughtful missives may not win a "Miss Popularity" contest, their depth and accuracy triggers a response, and people reach out to learn more about Leader Networks and my work. That is the business value - meaningful connections and new clients. They were also the ones I most enjoyed writing. The numbers didn't matter and did not predict success.
Taking down the social sharing counter means I'm no longer beholden to the sharing metric. No more temptation to post sexy fluff (haven't we all done it?) just to boost the sharing number. Instead, I can remain focused on delivering meaningful thought leadership and building mutually beneficial connections.
After all, that's why I blog. I want to share what I know with people who need help. I use thought leadership to educate and inspire social business leaders, and build awareness of my company's services and capabilities. I want social business decision-makers to know I have explored and mapped many paths across the social business landscape. My success has nothing to do with counting social shares. Instead, I value the professionals served and connections established though our content. No more sharing counters to influence my feelings ... or your first impressions of our work. Maybe we all should dump the counters. That way none of us will be swayed by meaningless metrics, and we can all focus on what really matters.