For most social marketers on the ground they’re less concerned with these metrics and more concerned with engagement. On most social channels engagement is a much less prominent metric, and additionally something that needs to be manually calculated across posts or in the case of Facebook, relegated to Insights and not publicly displayed.

So unless social marketers are calculating engagement actively and educating internal teams (especially senior marketers and C-suiters) about the importance of engagement, the focus invariably remains one of vanity – “how many fans have we got this month?”

Is this a bad thing? Not directly, but it has the potential to be. Let’s take a look at a Facebook example. When the aim is simply acquisition, the resulting campaign generally needs some form of incentivisation to be successful. So typically something like this:

Facebook comp

There’s two questions I’d pose at this point:

  1. What kind of fans are you really acquiring?
  2. Are these new fans likely to care about your future posts enough to actually engage?

You may then say, “Who cares if they don’t engage in the future? Our Page Like count has gone up so it’s a win”.

True, however if these fans are acquired through incentivisation you could be shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to generating engagement in the future.

Here’s why:

Organic reach on Facebook is being totally crunched. With so many marketers fighting for the same eyeballs, only the most engaging content will surface organically.

You need these two bubbles to converge as much as possible:

Facebook posting

The more fans you have acquired who couldn’t care less about your content, the harder it will be to create a post that over-performs.

The more stagnant your fan base, the harder it is to achieve a highly engaging post.

So what should you do?

Invest your efforts in content creation with the view of acquiring users through engaging content rather than incentivisation (ie: giving something away). You may acquire less people than if you give something away but in the long term these people are more likely to actually care about your content instead of that 4-in-1 food processor you’re giving away.

Put the emphasis on engagement metrics rather than vanity metrics.

Fabian Di Marco, Director of Strategy