Engagement: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing.

Lola Olson
Lola Olson Writer and Social Media Manager, Freelance

Posted on May 15th 2014

Engagement: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing.

Back when social media was new to businesses, they measured their success in numbers of Followers and Likes. When it became clear that Likes and Followers could be bought and when Klout started to catch on, it became about "Engagement."

Are you getting retweets? Are people commenting on your posts? Are you getting Likes on individual posts rather than just your entire page? And that's where we've primarily left off. "Engagement" is now the magical KPI so many use for judging the return on investment of social media. But... is "engagement" a useful KPI? Is it even a proper measure of return on investment?

The problem is, we're so caught up in counting our Likes, Mentions, and Retweets that we're not actually focused on what the point of "Engagement" is supposed to be. Fundamentally, all marketing is meant to engage for the purposes of either encouraging customer loyalty or earning you new customers. The point of "Engagement" is the point of most marketing - to sell. So if your Likes, Retweets, and Mentions aren't earning you any sales... then does it really matter how much of them you have?

Different brands and different sectors are going to need different content marketing strategies. But there are four questions you can ask yourself to find out what your engagement is really worth. Because if you're devoting time to social media when social media is not actually providing you with any return on investment, getting all of those retweets is a massive waste of time.

1. Are you trying to gain new consumers or keep your current ones? Social media is a great tool for quick customer service. It can generate great PR coverage and help you retain the customers you have. But if your goal is to gain new customers, than your strategy needs to be focused on not just getting someone to mention you or retweet you, but giving people a reason to buy into what you have to offer. 

engagement and ROI

Starbucks started a new social media account specifically to address consumer concerns and gain new ideas from the customers, demonstrating a great way to use social media to retain customers.

2. Does your 'engagement' end with a call to action? It's all well and good to have a fun conversation on social media. Sometimes fun conversations between popular people and companies on Twitter can create their own form of PR. But there needs to be a call to action. If your goal is to gain more customers, you need to make sure the point of your engagement is to push a customer closer toward their purchasing decision. Before you tweet, respond, or post, ask yourself if this conversation is worth the effort.


Toaster Strudel being a food brand would find it difficult to really measure the ROI on social media, as customers aren't going to say at the till whether they bought it because of Toaster Strudel's tweets. So, for them, engaging in conversations that go viral is a good way to keep their brand known. The above is a good example of capitalising on their popularity. 

3. Are your customers on this social platform? Every platform has its own purpose, its own use, and its own audience. You need to be realistic about why your customers are on their platforms and what their mindset is when they visit. If you are a B2B company that sells, for example, lawnmower paint, you should ask yourself if someone who owns a lawnmower company or a store would be on Facebook thinking, "I need to find some new paint!"

measure social engagement

So you may not be on Facebook to find an agency, but this is one of the better ways of engaging customers on a social platform they might not be using to find your brand.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and choose the appropriate platform to reach them. If you're a fashion brand targeting women, it makes sense to be on Pinterest. If you're a restaurant trying to get people to come to your sushi happy hour, it makes sense to be on Twitter and Foursquare. If you're a B2B software company, it makes sense to be on LinkedIn.

And last, but not least:

4. Are you a cause of influencer fatigue? Many people approach social networks, especially Twitter, with the idea that they should follow big names and influencers and attempt to have conversations with them. It makes logical sense. If someone's a big name in your industry and they retweet something you wrote, then you expose yourself to a huge audience. The problem is that very few people have these conversations outside of Twitter or other social networks - so the introduction and the conversation is forced.

You can't just tweet/follow/post on the wall of an influencer and expect them to care about you or your company. This is the social equivalent of stampeding up to a celebrity on the street, saying "Hello!", and throwing a branded t-shirt over their head. The best endorsements are genuine and it's just not something you can force. Some of the most successful endorsements of the companies I've worked with have been orchestrated outside of Twitter via good PR and knowing someone who knows someone. Unfortunately, that's sometimes how things have to go. Don't waste your time tweeting and trying to get a huge influncer to respond to you because you might get the opposite of what you expect.

In the end, you need to not just look at 'Engagement' and start looking at what that engagement is supposed to mean. How does it translate to sales? Can you track a customer's journey through your website? Can you promote a competition on Twitter and measure its success? Is the effort you're putting into engagement something that you can prove keeps your customers or gains you new ones?

Without asking yourself these key questions, the amount of 'Engagement' you have is going to become as useful as your follower number - and that's to say not much.

Lola Olson

Lola Olson

Writer and Social Media Manager, Freelance

I've been writing for over five years on a variety of subjects including social media, innovation, technology, finance, etc. I've written for both B2C and B2B audiences in different genres.

See Full Profile >