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Sharing =/= Engagement: How to gauge the reach & effectiveness of your content

  • 4 Minutes
Your social media sharing metrics might look impressive, but they’re probably not the best indicator of whether your content is actually any good.

Go on. Admit it. You sometimes share content without reading all the way to the end.

Maybe lack of time led you to hit your preferred social media sharing button before finishing. You’d hoped the article would be an easy four-minute read only to discover a 5,000-word opus.

Or maybe you thought sharing it would remind you to read it later, like a form of bookmarking.

Perhaps the title alone was a message you felt worthy of sharing with your followers.

You would be a very rare person indeed if you routinely read every word or viewed every second of video in a piece of content before deciding whether to share it or not. And the same goes for everyone you hope to reach with your content.

This all too common behaviour can be a great boost for your social media engagement figures. But if the point of your content was to be read (or viewed, or listened to, etc.) – and it should be – then all of those social media shares don’t mean a great deal.

Even if people do click through from social media, that only tells you how good your social media strategy is, or how compelling the headline is, not how strong the content itself is.

Sharing or clicking a link takes a split second, while reading an article requires each person to invest much more of their time and attention. So how can marketers measure attention instead of clicks to better understand whether the content is actually working or not?

Two of the most common metrics that can at least provide a better indication of what’s happening are Time on Page and Scroll Depth.

Time on Page is nothing new and isn’t a perfect indicator by itself. I often leave tabs open for minutes or hours while doing something else without having read a single word. But a higher than average Time on Page can suggest that more people did at least spend longer consuming the content, instead of clicking away after the first few paragraphs.

Scroll Depth is potentially more indicative of active reading, as it demonstrates the visitor’s attention is moving further and further down the page. For example, a scroll depth of 75% suggests the average visitor to the page viewed three quarters of the content on that page.

There are many tools and plugins out there that can help you to measure Scroll Depth, so check your analytics tool of choice for options.

Of course, if your content ends with a call to action, the number of people who clicked that link, submitted that form or called that number can be an even stronger indicator of whether the content is working.

Sure, some of these numbers may not be quite as impressive as the larger engagement numbers it’s easy to capture from social media. If only five people click the CTA at the end of the article, that number can look feeble in a report alongside the five hundred people who shared the article or the five thousand impressions those shares achieved. But clicking the CTA is also the most valuable of all those actions, possibly with a direct connection to that Return on Investment the CFO keeps nagging about.

What did you hope readers would do on finishing the content? Measure that!

And look! Here we are at the last line. We made it! I wonder how many of you are still reading? Go on, let me know!

Click to tweet. “This tweet proves I read to the last line of this article by @Kimota before sharing the link.”

Photo of Jonathan CrossfieldJonathan Crossfield

Jonathan calls himself a storyteller because freelance writer, editor, content marketer, journalist, copywriter and speaker wouldn’t fit neatly on a business card. His articles on digital marketing have won a couple of awards, but they were so long ago it seems boastful to keep mentioning it in bios. Jonathan lives in the Blue Mountains, perfecting the art of writing about himself in the third person. Find him on Twitter @Kimota.

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