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Why Engagement Isn’t a Definitive Indicator of Anything
Posted on April 23rd 2014
‘Engagement’ is frequently viewed as an ultimate measure of social media and content marketing success.
How many ‘likes’, favourites and +1’s did a piece of content receive?
How many shares or re-tweets?
How many comments?
And how many clicks?
It’s understandable why so many view engagement as being important. Engagement is seen as an indicator of how effectively your content incited your audience to take some sort of action, which in some cases can be attributed to affecting business objectives – building awareness, enhancing affinity, moving people along the path to purchase, sustaining loyalty, or whatever you might be trying to accomplish.
The problem is that engagement alone actually doesn’t tell us much at all. It’s not really a definitive indicator of anything except that someone clicked a button, or mashed a few keys on their keyboard.
What ‘engagement’ is lacking as an indicator of any real, meaningful success, is context – who is engaging, why they are engaging, what they are engaging with, and the nature of their engagement.
WHO IS ENGAGING WITH YOUR CONTENT?
Ideally, you want the people who are engaging with your content to be people that you can reasonably convert into customers at some point, that are current customers, are past customers, or may be someone that can influence any of the aforementioned groups of people.
If the people who are engaging with your content have never, or will never, make a positive influence on your business, their engagement with your content is meaningless.
WHY ARE THEY ENGAGING WITH YOUR CONTENT?
There are a number of reasons why someone might engage with your content: perhaps they identify with your brand, they enjoy using your products, they find the content to be particularly helpful, they are entertained, they are emotionally moved, or some other reason. These would all be considered to be positive forms of engagement, though each type might tell a different story and work toward achieving different objectives.
Understanding why people are engaging with your content can give a better picture of what those actions might mean. People are motivated to engage for a number of reasons, not all of which contribute to the same outcome.
WHAT IS THE CONTENT THEY ARE ENGAGING WITH?
The content you publish needs to be relevant to your business, brand, consumers or category in some way shape or form. Only when the content you publish is relevant to your business can you expect for engagement to be meaningful.
It’s easy to drive huge engagement by publishing photos of cute kittens wearing a hats, but unless kittens wearing hats has something to do with your business, any associated engagement isn’t going to make an appreciable impact on the success of your social media or content marketing efforts.
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THEIR ENGAGEMENT?
Not all engagement is created equal. Every social action requires differing levels of interest and involvement from your audience and their sentiment, their personal context, their stage in the purchase cycle, their technographic profile, and many other factors can have a great impact on the value of their engagement with your content.
For instance, it would be foolish to view negative comments in the same light as positive comments. They both can be indicators of success, but need to be categorized differently and cannot be lumped together as simply ‘engagement’ as they both tell a very different story.
Increasing ‘engagement’ should never be an objective as it is completely devoid of the context that is required for it to be meaningful to your business.
Only when you give consideration to the context surrounding engagement with your content will you be able to understand the correlation between those actions and real business results.
Do you, or have you used ‘engagement’ as a measure of social media marketing success?
How do you measure ‘engagement’ with the context that is required for it to be meaningful?
If you disagree with what I’ve written here, how do you validate ‘engagement’ as being a measure of success?
It would be great to chat with you more about this in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial