Social Media Is NOT About Engagement

The definition of Engagement in social media marketing is sometimes a bit cloudy. I would describe social media engagement as listening, responding and communicating with your social community. It is being real, ever present and responsive to conversations taking place within your social presence. Engaging involves responding to activities that happen to you, like:

1) comments

2) mentions

3) shares

4) likes

Engagement also involves the proactive activities that solicit responses from others, like:

1) Posting relevant, interesting content

2) Liking other peoples content

3) Sharing or Retweeting other peoples content

I hear so frequently that social media is about Engaging, or Engagement. I also hear the phrase, content is king. Is it really? Is that what social media marketing is about? I disagree that social media is about content, engagement or even relationships. Effective social media marketing is not ABOUT those things, it simply USES those things to accomplish something. They are merely the methods to achieve a result.

“Content isn’t king, results are! Social Media is about Results! Whether you are a big brand, entrepreneur or social media agency, using social media for marketing, you should be here for a specific reason or reasons. One of those reasons, and hopefully the main one, is to acheive some kind of return on the significant investment of time, money and resources that you are spending in the space.

Someone recently posted a comment in response to an article I shared. They said, “Remember… it’s not the amount of likes, but the engagement that makes a page worthwhile.”

My response was, I disagree. It’s BOTH. You can have all the awesome engagement in the world, but without a large enough, targeted community, you will never get an ROI. After all it is about results, not engagement that is important.

I challenge you to look at content, engagement and other components of your social media management in the proper perspective. I challenge you to spend less time on the methods of social media and focus more on achieving real revenue and results. I challenge you to shift your daily activity from doing social media to being effective, which is measured by real results.

Yes, you need to engage and you must always respond and build relationships. Just be sure you are engaging and building the relationships that have a chance to achieve results. These things combined is what I call social selling.


34 thoughts on “Social Media Is NOT About Engagement

  1. This is the bottom line of it of course, but how do you get to the results? I think while your bottom line matters, the vehicle to your bottom line includes great content, staying engaged, and listening well. As you said yourself – earn the relationship, then ask for the sale. Not get the sale and then the relationship.

    1. We are saying the exact same thing. What I am adding though is that the focus needs to be on the goal of results, not the methods of achieving the goal/results. Having that proper perspective changes the activity you are doing to more effective ones.

  2. Great points. It’s always important to remember that it is not the numbers that matter, it’s the relationships you build with individuals who are in your target audience. What are your thoughts on increasing ROI with this strategy?

    – Jen

  3. I came here thinking you were going to make a case that Social is NOT about engagement, so naturally, I was curious. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Like you said, it’s both results AND engagement. But I guess “Social Media is About Results Via Engagement” isn’t as clickable of a title.

    1. lol Kind of Melissa. I believe Engagement is the method to results. The problem is that most marketers and social media agencies don’t know what their real goal and objective is, and their main focus is on engagement. That isn’t effective. The focus needs to be on a realistic result, then determine the activities, including engagement that realizes that results. :-)

      Thanx for the input!

  4. I won’t reckon myself to be an expert (bollocks to that, hah!) but the aspect of social media requires you to be engaged and keep your readers engaged and piqued with interests. At the end of it all, you, not your competitors, redeem the trusts of your customers, converting that into a life-long relationship and hey, maybe sales! Ergo, social media IS about engagement but how you want to engage, why you should engage, what to engage with, where to keep them engaged, who you should engaged with has to be a concrete plan before even jumping into the complex and sometimes, immeasurable world of ‘social media’.

  5. A great article provokes thought and opinions. Yours does.

    Social Media Marketing is really a process, much like public relations, which has also been difficult to measure and monetize, since the first cavemen walked the earth and tried to promote their cave paintings.

    You said one thing that I thought was VERY important; you must have a “large enough, targeted community [to attain ROI].” Let’s not make CEOs and CMOs across America any more nuts about Social Media Marketing than they really need to be. They must understand there is a natural “ramp up time” to develop that large enough and targeted audience.

    The PR folks “cousins” of Social Media Marketers really have to target, get through to and develop sincere relationships with the right editors to get their press releases even looked at, let alone published. Social Media Marketers need to – not only – find their audience, but also appeal to them with whatever it takes (content, charm, warmth, professionalism) to establish trust and credibility. This requires two important understandings. Trust is earned over time and credibility is judged by what you say to others and what others say about you. You can’t rush this stuff, but you can get started as early as possible. There will be a period without ROI. The “I” stands for “Investment” for a reason.

  6. While I agree, after all the point of marketing is to get in front of your audience and convert that time into some form of ROI. The reason why people talk so much about ENGAGEMENT or RELATIONSHIPS, I think, is simply because of how many people are out there screaming, “BUY MY STUFF!” Yet they are not giving anyone any reason to listen.

    Now I am very new to social media, so I could be totally off base here. Yet, as I see it, social media is not an outlet for commercials. We are not paying for TV air time, or a full page ad in a targeted magazine. We are in the domain of socializing, where many people are gathered to meet and converse with like-minded individuals. Therefore, when social media is simply used like a megaphone on a busy street corner, people want it to stop. Hence the, talk WITH me not AT me, attitude we see quite a bit today.

  7. A targeted community! Yes! It’s interesting that so many people wan to market to the entire world. (Sounds exhausting to me…) Excluding people is exactly how to find the people to talk to, build relationships with, and move forward to a mutually beneficial business relationship during and after the sales cycle.

  8. Robert:
    the way you phrase the challenge, I have to agree.
    For me, social media is a means to an end. Consequently, the goals you set for your social media activity determine if engagement can be a goal or not. If your goal were customer loyalty, maybe engagement is a good indicator of success.
    I think people say content is king as it helps marketers reach their goals. Content to me is anything from a good 140 character Tweet to video or white paper. If social media gets this information in front of the right people at the right time, I call that success.
    One more thing, engagement is definitely not always something one should expect. It has been my experience that CFOs read blogs but don’t often comment. In this case, views are a meaningful metric but the lack of comments does not mean you missed the target.
    Great discussion,


  9. Robert,

    I really like your definition of engagement. People in charge of social media channels really need to understand it as you define it.

    Personally, I think some companies just push content through social channels but forget the important interaction with people that are following the brand. If that’s the way one uses social media, then they probably should re-evaluate it.


    1. Jason,

      That is very common. That is another symptom of a company that not only can’t define their goal/objective but also have not created a strategy.

      All too common.

  10. Excellent…! All Marketing should be about results… too often people get caught-up in a cliche that describes a specific step in the process while losing sight of the Why.

  11. I agree. Engagement is this buzz word people seem to love to throw out and few know what it means and even fewer know that it is simply a tool to help achieve a goal, it is not the goal itself. The bottom line is….the bottom line. $$$$ My clients, or me in terms of my own business, want to make money and you need customers to make money. Engagement is a tool to grow a fan base, relationships, and potentially gain new customers. I have seen companies with next to no engagement who gain a tremendous amount of new business from social media. I also see some companies with engagement through the roof, but they gain few new customers. Engagement, in general, does play a large role in growing a customer base, but it is still just a means to an end, it is not the end itself.

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