The (non)sense of social media engagement

By Jeroen Gaudissabois (@JGaudiss)

 

Engagement has been worshipped as the golden calf of social media for as long as we can remember. Having a lot of that sweet, sweet engagement meant that you were doing good. The more people liking your content, the better your organisation was doing in the digital landscape! Seems obvious, right? Right?

Discussions, retweets, likes, comments – because such engagement is the easiest quantifiable outcome of a brand’s social efforts, it has become one of the standards to measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns. But how does engagement really help a company?

If a popular consumer brand posts an otherwise irrelevant picture of a Lolcat at the right time on the right channel, chances are that this will create a lot of engagement. Great! Fans will react to the picture, share it and “engage” with the brand. But does this kind of engagement help you obtain your objectives? If you’re not selling cats or pet accessories, chances are it isn’t.

Meme

 

What is then meaningful social media engagement?

This all depends on where your organisation wants to go. Rather than having futile – and often desperate – cries for social media engagement, an organisation’s social efforts should be in line with its overarching goals and strategies. As a very wise cat once said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which road you pick.”

Once you get your goals sorted, it all comes down to content. Content was, is and will always be king. Rather than going for content that will drive meaningless engagement, organisations should get to know their target audience and prepare high-quality content, tailored to their needs and interests. This content should then be spread through a combination of organic and paid means. If you reach the right audience with the right content, meaningful engagement will follow. This high-quality, relevant engagement is worth more than all the likes your crazy cat pictures can get.

Engagement is not a useless metric. In many cases it’s a good indicator of how you’re doing. But rather than looking at the quantity of engagement you’re getting, the focus should be on its quality with a focus on the end goals – e.g. tracking referrals to your e-commerce site and eventual purchase. Engagement is essential and good, it’s what makes social media social, but it’s not the way to measure success.

 

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