It’s very easy to get caught up in the numbers…
Watching your follower count grow on any social media platform gives you a buzz, particularly as you hit milestones. Whether it’s your first 100, 10,000, or 1,000,000, it’s always cause for celebration. But how well are you leveraging those followers?
Engagement is what everyone talks about, but not everyone truly understands what that means.
There are a few key metrics to understand, so we’ll go through them quickly here. We’ll use a shopping centre analogy to try and clarify their purpose.
Let’s say you own a retail store in a shopping centre and you have a large promotional sign hanging in the store’s window.
For every potential customer who walks past the sign, that can be equivalent to an impression. However, even though the sign was in view, the person may not necessarily have taken any notice of it.
If the same person walks past the same sign numerous times as they walk about the shopping centre, that also accounts for additional impressions.
Using the same analogy, as your potential customer walked past the sign, they glanced at it, even if only very briefly. While it’s good, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person noticed your content for long enough to comprehend it. In this case, the person probably wouldn’t enter your store.
What constitutes reach varies from platform to platform. Using Instagram as an example, the user may have barely stopped scrolling through their feed and only briefly glanced at your content. Hopefully, you have scroll-stopping content that ensures the user notices your content before moving on to the next post.
For video content, views are also a valuable metric. Generally, when a user watches at least three seconds of your video (this does vary, only 2 seconds on LinkedIn), this will also count as a view.
This is the hardest to obtain, and most valuable of all metrics. It means that a user has liked, commented, shared, or taken some other action on your post.
Why does engagement matter?
You don’t want people walking past your signage in the shopping centre (using our previous analogy). You want them to take notice and walk into your store to hopefully make a purchase!
Obviously, engagement doesn’t equate to a sale. Even if you’re selling directly on Instagram or another platform, engagement is generally a step before it. However, you can consider it as the person taking a flyer from your store, asking your salesperson a question, or even flicking through a rack of clothes thinking “I like that”.
A more engaged audience is far more likely to respond to an offer, or make a purchase from your company.
Engagement builds engagement
While we generally only have minimal insight into the algorithms powering social platforms, engagement certainly appears to drive more engagement.
The algorithms recognise when your content is receiving good engagement and therefore shows the content to a broader audience (precisely how things go viral – the holy grail).
The more engagement you have, the more you can obtain. Ultimately, the more Social Media will work for your brand and your business.
All social platforms have differences in their algorithms, but the best general guide is to behave like an active and enthusiastic user. Make friends, like and engage with comments on their posts, and you’ll quickly find they reciprocate with the same.
We have grown accounts from a few thousand followers to almost 70,000 real and engaged followers by replicating the natural user behaviour using our Engagement Strategy Programme. It works! It provides significant improvements in both audience size, and the engagement of that audience with your account.
Advertising without engagement
If you’re promoting a sale or special offer, then social media advertising can provide you with a powerful platform. This is a scenario where you can get a result without undertaking engagement activities.
However, if you do, the advertising will help grow your followers even if they’re not purchasers. If you already have a good size, well-engaged audience, you can also post the same promotions for free to that audience and still generate great results.
It’s important to note, however, that advertising to build your followers without a solid engagement strategy is not going to yield good results long term. If you’re not engaging them, it’s going to take further advertising spend to reach them in future. With an engaged audience, your organic (unpaid) reach is far greater.
An account with 10 followers and 1,000,000 followers will see a negligible difference when running the same ad campaign with the same targeting.
Advertising and engagement are both valid routes to increasing your social media presence, just be sure about what you’re trying to achieve and ensure the activities you undertake align with those.