Why You Should Ignore The Social Media Engagement Myth
“Of course I’m going to buy the latest Ferrari. I commented on that amazing Facebook ad, didn’t I?” said nobody, ever.
Your average social media pundit will tell you engagement is everything in social media. It’s the barometer that determines whether your content is successful. To an extent they’re right. Only great content will motivate people to engage with it. Engagement directly impacts how many people could see your content (potential reach) and effectively pass it on to their own network of friends and followers. So it stands to reason that the more people who see the content, the more people will engage.
“Hundreds of millions of people using social media are interested in interacting with each other. Not brands. Not ads.”
– Bob Hoffman, Adcontrarian
Most people see lack of social engagement as failure but this is a flawed and shortsighted view. As Hoffman says, people want to interact with each other so engaging with your brand is the last thing on their mind.
So if brand engagement is usually low, is it worth publishing content at all? Is it possible for content to make an impression on people without them feeling the need to engage? Yes, absolutely. Well thought out content, as part of a broader communications plan, is not dependent on engagement to be successful in its purpose. The content may not attract floods of likes, comments, shares or retweets but if it’s seen by people and resonates in some way, it will plant a thought and make them ponder your message. Even if only for a second, this should be considered a success because brand consideration beats engagement. It’s this consideration that leads to sales.
At the same time, it’s possible to have huge social engagement that fails to deliver on business objectives. Or worse still, damages your brand and moves you backwards. As in the case where Pepsi launched a $20 million giveaway through its ‘Pepsi Refresh’ project. Not surprisingly this attracted huge levels of engagement, doubling its Facebook followers and earning “3.5 million likes …and a loss of 5% market share … dropping from the second best-selling soft drink in the US to the third” (Bob Hoffman).
“Social media tactics are not meaningful sales drivers … the truth is that social is a barely negligible source of sales.”
– Forrester Research
Engagement does not always equate to success. Sometimes it’s the small seed of an idea or challenge that yields the best results. It’s like an art-house movie you weren’t sure if you enjoyed or not, only to find yourself reflecting on it a day or two later. Clearly, the message got through and it made you think. By comparison, a Hollywood blockbuster action movie might thrill you at the time but is likely to be forgotten shortly thereafter.
Yes, engaging content is important, because it gets shared and shared content equals increased views. But that’s only half the story. Focus on telling a story that leads your audience along the buyer’s journey and ultimately delivers on your business objectives.