Is all engagement created equal?

by · May 28, 20146 comments

We spend a lot of time here at SME: Digital talking about Return on Investment. Heck, our CEO wrote the book on it. So, it should come as no surprise that when we were out post-client meeting enjoying adult beverages that the conversation should come back to measuring social media. We had this amazing conversation overlooking the city of San Francisco about metrics and measurement and the value therein. As the conversation was winding down, it dawned on me, we should think about looking at our social engagement metrics in a slightly new way.

Today, we are looking at reach and engagement. And if you aren’t, step one: start looking at reach and engagement. But, I have often felt uncomfortable with the current engagement metrics. Because we all agree that a share is more powerful than a like. And I hate lumping in likes with shares. It muddies the waters in my mind. So, I propose that we start looking at two levels of engagement: Passive and active.

MetricsPassive Engagement

By no stretch of the imagination am I putting down the like or the RT. I simply wish to delineate these actions from the more action-oriented engagement. Passive engagement really is the lowest barrier of customer entry. The minimum action required: moving a mouse and clicking. Anyone can do this. It is passive. It is like nodding your head when talking to someone. It is the bare minimum. It is simply an indication of appreciation. Important, yes! But, is it an indication of affinity or purchase intent? Not really. Passive engagement is the easiest action a customer or fan can do. Moving your mouse and clicking “like” or hitting the RT button doesn’t take much effort and doesn’t really indicate passion for the post. This is why I think we should begin to differentiate engagement.

Active Engagement

Now, this one…this is where someone has read something you’ve posted as a brand that they have found useful enough to comment on and add to the conversation or more importantly pass this interesting information onto their friends via “share”. This action is far more active than moving a mouse and clicking a button. This requires the action of forming a thought and opinion, typing that idea out, essentially putting themselves out there for the other fans to see and hitting enter. This is a much higher barrier and should be treated differently. There is intent in this action. Comments are far more thoughtful than a like. It’s fact. It requires more of the customer. And in the case of shares – that’s where gold is. If you create something that is so crazy useful to your fans that they think their friends need to know this, you have in fact become useful. And when you’ve created content that actually generates a bunch of shares…you need to flag it and do A LOT MORE OF THAT! This has just given you an indication of where your sweet spot is in terms of useful-ness to your audience.

The reason I feel this is an important change in measurement is not necessarily to share with the C-suite. However, these metrics should be uses to refine our content strategy. And we should be consistently refining our strategy based on results. You need to be measuring things in order to know what’s working and what’s not. And if straight-up engagement is all you are after, then feel free to discard this idea, but, if you are really into being useful to your customer and your shareholders, you should consider this approach when you are evaluating your content strategy in your next quarterly meeting. Look at the content that gets passive engagement and then look at the stuff that over-achieves in the active engagement arena. There is probably a hybrid in there somewhere that you could boost the passive engagement posts into more active engagement and watch the amplification fly.

What are your thoughts? How are you evaluating you content strategy? What metrics matter to you?

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About Tracey Parsons

Tracey Parsons

Since 1995, Tracey has been developing digital solutions. Currently SME Digital’s lead strategist, she continues to be dedicated to bringing cutting edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions to marketers. With more than 15 years in digital, Tracey not only brings vision, but the tools and strategies to execute against complex next generation concepts. She has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop and devise cutting-edge social, mobile and digital marketing practices.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Storewars News

    Interesting
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  • Prof Perry

    Important & relevant distinction between active and passive engagement.

    With respect to certain types of Active Engagement, they can be positive or
    negative, yes? If a comment is attached to a share/RT wouldn’t the
    sentiment’s polarity (+ vs -) need to be explicitly connected with the
    metric to accurately interpret engagement metrics for evaluating
    content?

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  • http://www.likebulbs.com/ Eugene Than

    Good point for active engagement.
    This will really depends on the product/services and with good content strategy.