It isn’t just about reach.

Yesterday Whale Oil had a blog post about an exchange between Danyl Mclauchlan (his blog post is here), LewSOS, Vish On A Mish and Trevor Mallard. Cameron blogs:

All Labour need is more viral videos.

No, I’m not kidding.  Check out Trevor Mallard here:

The exchange that prompted this is:






Trevor has fallen into the trap that many people do with social media. They look at the figures about reach that page admins get on Facebook, and conflate it with influence. But that isn’t how the real world works.


Firstly lest look at the content that Trevor is saying drove these reach figures. They are are a series of videos about issues that were, in general, national issues, but they had a local focus to them. So they focused on minimum wage, living wage, housing, transport, healthy communities, education and the Seatoun to Pencarrow Cycleway. So they are content that is designed to push a party message across.


The videos on the page Trevor tweeted the link to were posted on Facebook. I had a look and there are a couple that didn’t get many shares, like the one above. But there were a few that got a pretty decent number of shares:




Now getting 75-85 shares on anything is going to get you pretty decent reach, but two posts with the same sort of shares is going to be even better. Now it is interesting that these two posts, 2 days apart, appear to be the same video. But that is slightly beside the point. It is obvious that Trevor was posting content that was getting engagement. There were also a number of videos about peoples experience voting that he posted that got decent shares. So a reach of 400,000 is a totally believable figure.


However, as the title says, it isn’t just about reach. Reach is one metric that is available to page owners, it tells you how many people saw something related to your page in the last week. So this could be the actual post itself, it could be something in the ticker on the right hand said saying “so and so just liked/commented on Trevor Mallard’s video”, it could be someone seeing the sharing of the post. All this tells you is how many people have seen content from your page in that last 7 day rolling window. However that is like your telecanvasing team telling you they have called 5000 people in the last week. Does that tell you anything? It only tells you that they have called 5000 people in the last week. You have no idea if any of them had heard of you before the call, nor if they are a Labour, Greens, IMP, Ban 1080 or Bill and Ben supporter.


Now it is possible to target things on Facebook, so those in demographics that you want to connect with are more likely to see the content. There are also metrics available that provide information about engagement. However that still only tells you who has engaged with your content. It doesn’t tell you anything about how effective you have been in getting your message across.


Just like any other format of message promotion, be it TV, radio, billboards, news paper ads, or leaflet dropping. You are able to easily obtain figures about how many people you have potentially reached, but you don’t get any feedback on how effective that has been. This is where you need other sources of information. Be it surveys, or scientific polling or telecanvassing. If you want a more accurate level of information on the engagement with your content, then a sentiment analysis system is needed to assess if the talk around your brand is positive or negative.


Reach is but on statistic. It tells you something, but it doesn’t tell you everything. I see just as many negative mentions of John Key come across my timeline on Twitter as I do positive, that still only tells me that those I follow have an, at best, 50/50 view of John Key.


So Trevor may have done a good job getting a reach of 400,000 in a week on Facebook, but that doesn’t tell him anything about how effective his reach has been. But these questions shouldn’t stop him, or other MPs or Parties, using social media. There may still be questions to answer about how effective social media may be in getting a political message out there, but it is still another tool in the political toolbox that should be used. Even if it is only half as effective, per 1000 people exposed, as say a bill board, its strength is in how easily it can read 400,000 people. So reach is part of the picture, but it isn’t the whole picture.