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Engagement or Relevancy: What is More Important in Social Media?

Conventional wisdom states that there are two types of followers in social media. There are those who share your content, ‘like’, retweet or comment on your posts, and interact or converse with you...and those who don’t. Or, in social media speak, those that are engaged and those that aren’t. But let me introduce to you a different scenario, one that’s relevant whether or not any given follower is engaged or not. Have you ever stopped to consider the ‘value’ of a follower or group of followers, irrespective of whether they interact with you or not?

Let’s take the example of a designer jewellery brand with a Facebook page that has 500 fans (I still don’t know what to call fans now that we ‘like’ not ‘become a fan’!). The brand has three key baseline objectives for its Facebook page: first, it wants to increase the number of fans, and second, it wants to increase the number of those fans who are engaged with the page (and therefore, the brand). Its third objective is to attract only people who it sees as core target market, in this case businesspeople with a given level of disposable income. The argument goes that it is only these people who are likely to convert to paying customers for a designer jewellery brand. Those in its core target market are more relevant and more valuable than those who aren’t. Makes sense, right?

Or does it? As I have said before, the social web is all about sharing. The power of social media is in its ability to spread word of mouth messages between friends and colleagues. Social media doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of financial wealth or job title or, for that matter, location, gender, race or age. Using myself as an example, I have friends and contacts across the social web from all walks of life. Some are wealthy, some are not; some would shop at the example designer jewellery brand, some would not. If I personally fell into the ‘not relevant’ category and was therefore not desired as a Facebook fan of the brand, that brand would miss out on my potential to share its messages with my wealthy friends and colleagues and, therefore, my advocacy. The point is that I personally might never purchase from said brand...but that some of my friends just might.

So the question is: is it blinkered to want to attract only those who are in your brand’s core target market via social media channels? In an ideal world, all of our social media followers would be both highly relevant and highly engaged. But the social web (and human nature, for that matter) simply doesn’t work like that. Any social presence will have a varied mix of engaged and non-engaged followers, and relevant and non-relevant followers. This dynamic is plotted in the diagram below. I’d argue that it’s easier to convert a highly engaged but less relevant follower (an advocate) into a brand ambassador than a very relevant but un-engaged follower (a potential consumer).

So where does this leave page administrators when it comes to posting content? Do we stick to strong on-brand, product-related messaging focused solely on key demographics in the hope of appealing to ‘relevant’ people, whether they’re engaged or not? Or do we lighten up a little, recognise that there are people who are less relevant but far more likely to share our messages and that these people may well know others who are relevant? Do we therefore adjust our content accordingly by being more ‘social’: posting music videos and other multimedia content (for example) that while maybe is not on-brand, is more engaging? Do we need to be less hung-up about our brand and to ditch the brand guidelines when it comes to social media marketing? 

Over to you: if they’re engaged, to what extent does it matter who your social media followers are?


Join The Conversation

  • Jul 1 Posted 7 years ago Kelly Monroe (not verified)

    Social media marketers should learn to walk the tightrope between engagement and relevancy. It is very important to share brand information - after all, how will u be able to draw "fans" or "followers" if they do not know anything about you, right? On the flipside, how will you're brand gain recognition if you do not expand your network beyond "relevant" people ("fans" & "followers")? These are just a couple of things social media marketers have to answer.n Once you have your plan ironed out, know how you'lll be able to protect your privact and network security by checking these out:


    Let me know what you think… kelly@briefworld.com

  • Jul 1 Posted 7 years ago Leonard William... (not verified)

    This is a very interesting article on social media.Paul you bring up an issue I have grappled with for quite sometime concerning the two kinds of follows.



    Leonard Williams

  • Jul 1 Posted 7 years ago Geno Prussakov (not verified)

    Good post. The way I see the situation is that the key is in stop thinking of this as an "either..., or..." question, and start looking at as at a "both..., and..." synergy.

  • AmithaAmarasinghe's picture
    Jul 1 Posted 7 years ago AmithaAmarasinghe

    More clear now :-) I took "relavancy" as in, the "relavancy of the content for me" where as you intended to say "relavancy of me in brand's marketing activities". You used the word "like", for the same meaning I intended with "relavant".

    In that sense; yes we both are talking about the same thing. Problem for most brands is, they can't figure out a way of measuring how much impact an engaging customer (but irrelavant) can do on relavant (but not engaging) customers' buying decision. If they start to see this relationship without any doubts, I'm sure more and more brands will start targeting their social media efforts on irrelavant but engaging customers.


  • ThePaulSutton's picture
    Jun 30 Posted 7 years ago ThePaulSutton

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    Doogie – love your approach and think it’s spot on. Mixing up the types of posts and posting content that, though relevant to your business’ field of interest, isn’t directly related to selling what you have to offer will keep the page fresh and interesting. I love the idea of keeping Friday for something fun, weird and wacky. Chiefly, you’re making the content sharable, and you never know who those advocates might know or where it will lead. You’re taking a longer term, wider view on it and that, in mu opinion, should be applauded.

    AmithaAmarasinghe – I think we’re coming to the same point from different angles. The Ferrari example is spot on (and I’ve nicked it to respond to a comment on the original blog post!), and if Ferrari were to ONLY target people who they thought were highly relevant (in terms of ‘likely to purchase’) the brand would suffer. I do, however, think you can engage an ‘irrelevant (unlikely to purchase) audience, as the Ferrari example proves.

    Katie – “a mix of content written in a down to earth conversational tone” is very accurate. I feel the key to a brand engaging people is variety – a mix of brand/product information, offers, tips and some weird stuff totally unrelated to the product/service on offer. It’s this last point that I feel some brands struggle with as they’re too constrained by brand guidelines and ‘conventional’ marketing. Social media marketing is a different beast. As you say, it’s a personal connection and we want to have a feel for that person or people.

    Felix – relativity is important. Ideally we’d like all of our followers to be relevant (likely to purchase) and engaged. But given this is unlikely, the balance between advocates and (potential) consumers is an important dynamic. This is where the content issue raises its head and were a compromise needs to be reached in order to socialise content so as to reach the wider audience that you mention.

  • Jun 29 Posted 7 years ago Doogie (not verified)

    I handle customer relations for a moving company.  My VP of Sales & Marketing is in sync with Web 2.0 (a rare condition for that position in this industry) and is encouraging all staff to embrace it as well.  I've somehow morphed into the unofficial social media guy, and I must confess, I enjoy it more than any other part of my job.

    Anyway... 75% of our leads come from direct referrals and repeat customers, so past customers are the primary target of our relatively new Facebook page.  I've decided to implement a 5-day schedule of types of posts, with no more than one a day.  Once a week I'll post moving tips, as our sales reps do let potential customers know of our site.  But since most of our "fans" would be past customers who don't need moving tips right at the moment, 2 of my weekly posts focus primarily on the realities of living in a home, such as lawn care insights, how to find out who my elected officials are if I moved to a new jurisdiction, or creative storage ideas.  A portion of our fans are associates in the industry, so once a week I'll post something industry-related.  Fridays I reserve for a fun post, and if I can tie it to the industry, then great - but if not, then I'll just find something fun.

    The ultimate goal here is to keep our brand first and foremost in our past customers' minds, and if they see us displaying relevant information in their Facebook news feeds, we count on that giving us an edge over the dinosaurs in our industry.

  • AmithaAmarasinghe's picture
    Jun 29 Posted 7 years ago AmithaAmarasinghe

    I have a slightly different opinion about this. Being in the target market, or being relavant does/should not necasarily mean that, they have to buy from you as a direct result of your social media efforts. In my opinion, 'yes it got to be relavant' first. If it is relavant to them only, they will engage.

    For example, social media efforts for Ferrari or BMW should never be targeted at their "target market" as in marketing books. But, it cannot be targeted at irrelavant people as well. The right mix of target audience is, the people who aspire to drive a Ferrari who will endlessly talk about new Ferrari models on Facebook and Twitter etc. But they will never be able to afford any of those models of Ferrari.

    To answer your question, I believe if the audiance is relavant, engagement will follow. Relavancy and engagement are the two sides of same coin. In other words, you can never engage an irrelavant audiance.

    I have blogged about a simmilar topic few weeks back, "Money or Engagement? What Would You Set as Your Social Media Goal?"

  • Katie Urbain's picture
    Jun 29 Posted 7 years ago Katie Urbain

    I have to say, as a fan, a brand ambassador, and a social media marketing person; I think we need a mix of content written in a down to earth conversational tone.

    For example: if business x is constantly and excessively talking about it's product, it's prices, it's news, and it's specials I am going to quit paying any attention if I am not currently in "buying mode". This will result in a "boy who cried wolf" scenario. So when the said company posts something relevant to me I might miss it as I scan over their avatar in my feed, or I might have quit following them if it is too excessive. That being said, if business x tells me when they have some super deals going on, talks about community (regionally or topic driven), and talks about real human interests, maybe throwing in a little humor -- I am more likely to get some benefit or enjoyment from them and will continue to see what they have to say. 

    I think transparency is the key here. Everyone knows a Real Live person is sitting behind the keyboard posting stuff for these companies (provided they are not obnoxiously automated). And we want to hear from this person. Is something funny going on in that office today? Did someone say something ridiculously hilarious? Did said person go to a big event the night before that they have some fun bits to share? Is there some excitement going on about a big idea or a super cool new gadget (iphone4)? These things provide a bit of the atmosphere for the fan to understand the people they might buy from, and if you feel you "know" someone, then that person is arguably most likely to get your business over someone you do NOT know.

  • Felix Hemsley's picture
    Jun 29 Posted 7 years ago Felix Hemsley

    Nice post, Paul.

    I would agree that those who are engaging may not always be the most relevant to a brand or product/service, but continuing a belief that numbers are vanity, if it is the non-relevant who are engaged then only half of the opportunity exists. It's probably all a question of relativity; 20 people sharing and re-purposing ones own content is very flattering and a great mens to build awareness, however, would those 20 be traded for say 5 relevant voices online, who have a much more aligned audience thus driving a more targeted group of individuals to subsequently share that content?

    It's often hard to justify changes in the style in which content is created within larger organisations, with branding and messaging being so critical, and with a core desire to penetrate the wealth of noise which exists online. Some comprimises do need to take place as you say, so as to 'socialise' content somewhat more. But that potentially exists in the style in which the content is presented, engaging media forms or entertaining digital assets can offer on brand messaging but be accessible to a wider audience and offer real value!

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