The pursuit of numbers has become something of an obsession in marketing. We all want more followers, likes, and clicks—but in reality, it’s not about the numbers at all: It’s about the quality and meaning behind these metrics.
Brands may want more followers on a surface level, but they need active and engaged followers who are genuinely interested in their message. A metrics-only approach can become dangerous, especially when you ignore dark social, which can be transformative for your business’s marketing efforts. Focusing on metrics that truly reflect your brand’s engagement and customer loyalty is intrinsically linked to digital credibility and consumer loyalty.
Okay, So What Are Meaningful Metrics?
It’s easy to get lost in the sea of likes, shares, comments, and followers, but these are just a few of the readily measurable numbers that are useful to brands and marketers. Though they can be enticing, and they certainly provide some insight into your online presence, they don’t tell the whole story of your brand’s engagement. A large number of followers or likes can be misleading, especially if they don’t translate into genuine engagement or loyalty.
Vanity metrics are numbers that look impressive on the surface, but carry little actual substance for your business’s overall growth. They might make you feel successful momentarily, but they don’t contribute to your brand’s long-term success. Metrics like the number of likes on a post or follower counts fall into this category. While reporting high numbers in these areas might make your brand look good, they don’t necessarily translate into meaningful engagement, customer loyalty, or actual conversions.
It’s tempting to equate success with the number of likes or followers your brand has. After all, high numbers can make your brand appear popular and influential. But this can be a misleading path. Often, these metrics are inflated by bots (fake accounts online with no real human behind them) or users who may have no real interest in your brand. What’s the point of having thousands of followers if they don’t engage with your content? Or worse, if they’re not even real people?
Dark Social as “Hidden” Engagement
Dark social is the sharing of content through private communications like messaging apps, Slack, email, or other channels where tracking is challenging. Though these interactions are not directly measurable, they hold significant meaning. Conversations, recommendations, and personal endorsements that happen away from the public eye can be just as powerful, if not more so, than a rush of followers or flash-in-the-pan virality. Dark social activity often represents that your business has highly engaged and loyal customers who are not just passively observing but actively promoting and discussing your brand.
Prioritizing Brand Engagement and Customer Loyalty
Instead of fixating solely on the number of likes on a social media post, it’s crucial to examine the quality of the engagement. Are your followers actively participating in the conversation? Are they sharing your content with their network? Are they genuinely interested in what you have to say, or are they just clicking a button out of habit? When your audience engages in a meaningful way, it’s a sign that they find value in your content and are emotionally invested in your brand. This is a far more meaningful metric than a high number of passive likes.
Loyal customers are not just repeat buyers; they are brand advocates. They defend your brand, refer others, and become your most valuable marketers. Focusing on these metrics can help you understand how well your brand resonates with your audience and how likely they are to keep coming back. But this loyalty isn’t built solely through discounts or promotions. It’s fostered by consistently delivering quality products or services and creating positive customer experiences. Brands that focus on building customer loyalty tend to see a higher customer lifetime value and enjoy the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing.
Digital Credibility Is the Key to Success
Digital credibility relies on consistency in your messaging, branding, and content. This helps build trust and reliability. When your audience sees that you are consistently delivering value and maintaining the same image, they are more likely to trust you. Brands that are open about their practices, values, and shortcomings are often seen as more credible than those who do not. McKinsey found that organizations that prioritize digital transparency are more likely to increase annual growth by at least 10% and build trust and authenticity.
Credibility makes consumers trust your brand. It is not just about presenting a polished image; it’s about consistently delivering on your promises. When consumers see a brand as credible, they are more likely to engage with it and, ultimately, become loyal customers.
Frequency illusion, sometimes known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, is a cognitive bias where people tend to develop a preference for things they encounter repeatedly. This preference is not based on rational evaluation, but rather on familiarity. It’s the reason why catchy jingles in commercials or iconic logos are so effective. When consumers repeatedly encounter your brand, they become more comfortable with it, and this comfort turns into trust.
When you prioritize meaningful metrics and focus on brand engagement, customer loyalty, and digital credibility, you’re essentially paving the way for this repetition and trust-building to occur. The more consumers see your brand, the more they remember it, and the more they subconsciously trust it and want to do business with it. It’s a virtuous cycle that fuels your brand’s success.
The Morning Consult Most Tristed Brands Report (2023) found that consumer trust boiled down to one main action: consistently following through on consumer expectations. Some of the most trusted brands around the world for this year include Band-Aid, Google, PayPal, and Samsung—all of which exhibited this consistency for consumers.
Statistics show, though, that some generations are easier to trust than others. The report also showed that Gen Z is increasingly less likely—8.74% less to be exact—to trust brands “to do what is right.” This could be because Gen Zers are still young and haven’t had nearly as much brand exposure as older generations and are, therefore, less affected by frequency bias.
Content is king in the digital world. High-quality content that provides value to your audience not only attracts them but also keeps them coming back for more. Brands that consistently produce valuable content are perceived as more credible. Reliability is the backbone of credibility—if you consistently meet your customers’ expectations and deliver on your promises, they will come to trust your brand.
It’s time to shift our focus from merely chasing numbers to prioritizing meaningful engagement. Metrics alone are just the tip of the iceberg. Dark social interactions can lead to a profound impact on brand engagement, customer loyalty, and digital credibility. By understanding and harnessing its power, you can build a brand that not only attracts followers but also fosters trust, engagement, and loyalty.