Have Brands Got Social Media “Engagement” All Wrong?

Source: Skyttle Friends

Source: Skyttle Friends

With the rise of the Facebook “Like” button and, more recently, Google+, the leading social networks have distilled engagement down to it’s most basic instinct: single-click approval. This is fine if you’re running a popularity contest or a poll, but is it really engagement? I mean, really.

What do we mean when we talk about engagement? Or better still, what do we expect from someone we consider to be engaged in what we’re doing? If we’re in a room full of people and we ask for a show of hands (“Who here likes me?”), we might get a thrill from seeing a sea of hands – but we don’t expect much more. If we’re starting a discussion or sharing something useful, though, surely we expect a comment, even a negative one, that could form start of a conversation, leading to some form of simple relationship?

This actually chimes with how Facebook grades engagement on it’s platform using it’s EdgeRank algorithm. Few brands realise that, unless people actually comment and respond to their Facebook updates regularly, they won’t get to see subsequent posts. I wrote about this in my recent post on why your Facebook marketing might not be working. Market Sentinel have also now published some excellent analysis of the engagement that the leading brands/celebrities on Facebook are getting – or not, as seems the case.  I’ve posted Market Sentinel’s chart showing how many fans celebrities on Facebook really have above. It’s derisory.

I know it’s been a massive band-wagon for the last 3-4 years (and I’ve been in the front seat) but adding Like and other Share buttons may not be good for brands in the long term. By effectively out-sourcing engagement to social networks, brands are losing control over this aspect of their communications – which may have lasting negative effects. As always, there are solutions and ideas emerging to counter this, such as real-time, on-site comment tools.

Similarly, in his fascinating post on how to use “content affinities” to increase engagement on Facebook and other platforms (all focused on improving Edgerank) Chase McMichael of Infinigraph decries the “monocular” approach of many brands that are focused on building mythical “communities” and using fans as their primary metric. As the chart above indicates, this approach is seriously flawed.

Over the next 2 years I see companies of all sizes wanting to define what engagement means for them, rather than adhering to Facebook’s shadowy rules or palming discussion off to Twitter or Google+. They can, of course, already do this using Facebook apps and similar self-build tools (as Market Sentinel highlight) – so if you’re wondering… consider that a first step. Take control!

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