Why Social Media Engagement is Essential

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Rumors of social media engagement’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Social media engagement’s importance is obvious to anyone who understands how social media works and its potential for businesses.

Matt Kapko recently wrote an alarming article titled “Social media engagement is dead” in which he argued that engagement metrics have very little value when it comes to your bottom line. Kapko pointed to a number of studies which came to similar conclusions: social engagement metrics are overrated and have little tangible value so don’t bother.

Social media metrics and the associated analysis by marketers has “failed to live up to its promise as a panacea for customer-centricity,” according to a recent report from customer intelligence platform Vision Critical, based on research compiled from three global brands. “It turns out that the people who participate and post on social media are not representative of your customers.”

Savvy companies could start to put significantly less focus on social engagement in 2015 and redistribute their efforts toward achieving demonstrable mission-critical sales goals and other objectives.

I disagree and so should you. To begin with, the sources Kapko cites in support of his arguments seem to miss the point. Mark Traphagen challenged these sources in his article titled “Why Engagement DOES Matter As A Social Media Metric” in Marketing Land for three reasons.

Firstly, the Vision Critical study contends that “enthusiasts” that seem to account for most of the engagement brands see online actually represent a skewed subset of brands’ customers so their “engagement” isn’t as valuable as it may seem. As Traphagen pointed out, this isn’t the full picture because the study seems to focus on social media “enthusiasts” and not brand “enthusiasts” who would be more inclined to buy products and services from the brands they are passionate about.

Secondly, and taking this a step further, the study doesn’t consider how brand enthusiasts would engage with the brand and the likely correlations of these engagements between interested customers and the brand and conversions to sales. The conclusion, instead, is simply that the conversions don’t take place in significant numbers and the engagements the study focuses on are largely irrelevant.

Lastly, although the bottom line for brands is generally going to be making money and converting leads into sales, this isn’t the sole value of engagement using social media. While engagement on, say Facebook, may lead directly to a sale in some cases, that sort of direct conversion is probably relatively uncommon. That said, meaningful engagement isn’t just a “nice to have” by-product of a marketing campaign, it can be a crucial contributor to a thriving sales pipeline. Focusing on the directly observed links between social media engagement with a poorly identified group of “enthusiasts” and disappointing sales will just result in misleading conclusions and poorly informed marketing strategies.

The important thing to remember about social media is, well, that it is social. Your social marketing campaigns should aim to take advantage of that quality and focus on engaging meaningfully with your customers. This isn’t a new idea. Anyone who has been involved in most business activities knows that doing business is inherently social. Social business isn’t some concept a clever marketed invented in the 21st century, it has been the way people have done business for millennia. The recent change to social marketing has really been more of a reaction to what the Cluetrain Manifesto referred to as “Command and Control” marketing.

Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.

Instead, find better ways to engage more meaningfully. You can buy as many followers as you want and boast about artificially high follower counts but what are they really worth if you are not making sales? Appeal to the people who are actively interested in your brand and what you have to offer by engaging with them using relevant content and ads.


One way to do that is to use contextually relevant and enticing images in your content that draw your enthusiasts in so you can offer them an opportunity to connect to you directly through a sale, conversation with you or by sharing what you have to offer with their friends and family. imonomy’s in-image ads, for example, uses a contextual analysis of the content on your website to display relevant ads which give your prospective customers what they are looking for, whether that is a direct option to order a specific product or discover new products. Remember that people who find your website through a search or a recommendation from a friend are probably interested in buying a product from you or learning more about your product range. Create opportunities for prospective customers to become loyal customers by giving them what they are looking for.

Engaging with people using social media can be a very effective way to introduce those people to your website in the first place. As Traphagen pointed out:

In other words it is not the job of social media to sell. That’s the job of your site. Social media’s job is to get people to the location where potential conversion happens and to move them along on their journey toward conversion.

You may well find that the number of followers you have; how many “likes” your posts have received and the number of retweets don’t directly relate to sales but a deeply engaged community of customers is more likely to take an interest in what you have to offer them and perhaps even collaborate with you on your next Great Thing. The key lies in understanding your community and what they love about your brand and your products and make more meaningful and relevant connections.

Social media engagement isn’t dead, it’s just misunderstood and a missed opportunity for brands that lose sight of its fundamental premise that –

markets are conversations.

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  1. The point you make about conversations is key.

    I’ve engaged with a few people that still think of social media as a one way broadcast medium, which results in them:
    1) classing it as ‘advertising’
    2) thinking it doesn’t require constant attention
    3) missing out on support/engagement opportunities

    A lesson I learnt some time back is that the conversation is happening whether we like it or not, our choice is simply whether we want to participate or not. If we choose not to, then we only have ourselves to blame for the opportunities we miss.

    • Thanks for your input (as always), Nathan. I think your last point is a great one: a conversation is probably happening already and the question is whether you want to be part of it or just watch from the sidelines?

What do you think?