Bank CEO: “Why is there a puppy on our Facebook page?”
Social Media Community Manager: “Because puppies get great engagement.”
Bank leadership: “Huh???”
While this exchanges sounds farcical, it’s not that big a stretch from actual conversations occurring at banks and credit unions everywhere. Social media managers tend to believe unequivocally that “engagement is good,” which might lead them to publish somewhat random or irrelevant material on their institutions’ Facebook pages.
Engagement all by itself is the wrong measuring stick in social media. It is the one of the easier things to measure — how many people are talking about your brand and/or Facebook page — which is why it remains a popular topic. But at the end of the day, a highly engaged audience doesn’t mean people are buying more products or even your customer. It simply means you shared something they like.
With that perspective in mind, here are the three biggest reasons people tend to assume engagement is more important than it really is.
1. Engagement = More/Better Customers
The supposition that people engaging with a brand on social will lead to more customers is false. It might lead to more customers, but there is no way to know, no proof unless you implement tracking tied to social media and integrate it with your sales/MCIF database. The truth is that social channels are very rich with data, but very few financial institutions are taking advantage of this to link their work on these channels back with results.
It is important to know what every campaign in any media delivered — customer acquisition, balance growth, new applications, average credit score of applicants, and so on. But if we simply focusing on engagement — detached from results — we never figure out the real ROI of our efforts. Engagement is not all that valuable unless we can show what engagement delivers in terms of bottom line results.
So maybe that puppy photo delivers engagement, but what if you knew that while puppies deliver engagement, they also deliver people down stream deliver who switch banks to you because of the engaging puppy. But to just say that theoretically liking a picture of a puppy on a credit union site means they will switch banks is flawed.
2. Engagement = Conversation
Since most people want to use social to generate a dialog with their customers, they tend to think that engagement is akin to a win against this goal of dialog. But let’s break that down: Let’s say you are doing content right and you are not talking constantly about your brand, it’s products and services and that you are actually giving people information that will add value into their lives. For a list of those types on content you should be using, check out an earlier post here. And let’s say people engage in that content. Many marketers feel that this is a conversation. When in fact, it is most likely not. When people click like, and in terms of engagement this is the one that happens most frequently, they are simply affirming your message. There is no conversation there. It is simply someone looking you over as you walk down the street and giving you a thumbs-up. While that may be an interaction, it is hardly a conversation.
So, let’s talk comments. Comments are a more rare occurrence in social and are closer to actual conversation. However, too few financial institutions have response models to support a conversation. Instead, the conversation goes like this: Someone sees you walking down the street. You say “Hello” and the other person says: “Hello, you look nice today.” And since you have no response model, you simply keep walking. That’s not a conversation.
Finally shares. And we can all agree that someone sharing your content is good. It means that you delivered something that your audience found valuable enough to share with their network. Sharing is a hold grail in terms of social media metrics, but the reason is not engagement. You see a share is not a conversation either. To extend our earlier metaphor, a share is like someone seeing you on the street and taking a picture of your gorgeous new coat and texting it to her friend. So, also not a conversation, but still, shares are great affirmations of good content. When you have a post that is widely shared, you should note that post and work to create more posts that are similar to it in spirit.
3. Engagement = Amplification
With media, it is about reach. And social is really truly just another media, so intuitively you assume you want to reach the widest possible audience through Facebook. Certainly reach is critical in getting a message out. But again, it is simply a component.
When you create great content that is relevant to your audience and adds value to their lives, they like it, or comment on it, or share it. When they do these things, your content shows up in their friends’ feeds. The average Facebook user has more than 300 friends. When they share your content, you get access to those eyeballs and since word of mouth marketing is the most powerful engine around, this matters. If you have 10,000 Facebook fans and you have 1% engagement on a post, that means you will get an amplification of 30,000 (10,000 x 1% x 300). That is a BIG boost to the message.
All that being said, even with the power of an amplified message, we still need to know what that message delivered in terms of results. It is important that marketers start to build plans and strategies that show accountability to the investment. It all goes back to tracking. Engagement is fine and can lead to an amplified message, but you need to know what you are getting from engagement. What does engagement mean in terms of sales, new accounts and account size? Without that, it’s probably little more than just a puppy post.
Tracey Parsons is the Digital Strategist at Social Media Explorer. With more than 15 years in digital, Tracey is dedicated to bringing cutting edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions to marketers. She has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop and devise cutting-edge social, mobile and digital marketing practices. Connect with Tracey on Twitter @tparsons.