Continuing my thoughts on social media, I turn my focus to engagement and what it really means. Very interesting to note Instagram has just started testing a plan to hide the number of Likes a photo or video has received from public view. This will still be a visible metric for content publishers, but Instagram has stated the purpose is to have its audience deemphasize likes and focus on the quality of the content. A noble gesture to be sure. Twitter stopped releasing the number of Likes post as part of its publicly available data feed a long time ago. From a content creator's perspective, it is generally important to understand the engagement social content receives, but what does it really mean?
Follows, Likes and Shares have been correctly deemed vanity metrics, but have been focused on by marketers as a meaningful metric for far too long, mostly because they are relatively easy to obtain and report on. It takes little to no effort or commitment for someone to Follow you or Like your content on social media. However, sharing, reposting or retweeting introduces an additional level of commitment because now your audience member is signalling his or her preferences, beliefs, etc. to his or her followers. Sharing requires someone to put a little more skin in the game. They are saying they like your content enough to validate and share it with their larger audience. So Shares are a slightly better measure of actual engagement.
The next and truer level of engagement marketers should really be focusing on is Clicks and Conversions. Any social media post worth its salt should include some call to engagement and ideally a link to the next piece of content i.e. Click Here to learn more, Click Here to buy something from me, Just please Click Here... Users who take the added step of clicking on your link signal their further commitment to buy what you're selling. They trust and believe the next piece of content you've created is worth their time and maybe even their money. They don't just Like you, they teeter on Loving you (or at least what you have to say, sell, whatever). Now, if after you are able to get them to take the first leap, you get them to take another by filling out a form, downloading a document or making a purchase and actually "converting", you've realized full-blown engagement. Yet, I see so many social posts with no links and no calls to action and I wonder Why? In most marketing campaigns, outside of those focused only on brand building, conversions are and should be the truest measure of success. Then I realize Why. Building up enough trust to get clicks and conversions is hard work and takes time. You actually have to develop a human-to-human relationship with your audience. It's so much easier to just say, "Hey, look how many followers I have or how much they all Like me." But I think brands are starting to get smarter and realizing these vanity goals are not enough to move the needle and generate a return on investment.