These days, it seems like “social media engagement” is everyone’s favorite buzzword. To some people, it means nothing more than a like, to others it’s giving someone your email address. Its use has gone way beyond social, as networks and media publishers are using engagement instead of eyeballs as a measure of success.
Technically, engagement is the process an individual goes through as they deepen their relationship with an organization or cause that interests them. It is the first step in building a relationship between an organization and its stakeholders. In today’s era of overwhelming inundation of data and messages, an organization’s relationship with its customers and/or stakeholders may be what differentiates it from everyone else out there trying to convince people to buy, donate, or volunteer.
In social media, the term engagement refers to any action taken by anyone who has seen your post. So a like, a retweet, a share, or a pin are all “engagement.” The Conclave on Social Media Measurement Standards dictates that engagement should be calculated as a percentage of your total following (click here to view the full engagement standard). So, you would take the total number of engagements in a post and divide that by the total number of likes or followers.
Levels of engagement
But raw engagement numbers don’t tell the full story. Most organizations today acknowledge that likes are less impactful than shares and that comments and retweets with edits are signs of a higher level of engagement than a simple like. So they divide engagement levels into low vs. high:
In general low-level engagement includes:
- Number of likes on Facebook
- Number of YouTube views
- Number of Twitter followers
- Number of pins on Pinterest
Any increase (or decrease) in each of these metrics could be an indicator of change in the level of general interest in your brand, product, or cause. (Or it could be the result of a spam or bot attack…See our piece on the most common mistakes.) It’s also a quick way of judging the level of interest in different posts. Categorize each post by topic, theme, or subject, and track which ones consistently outperform the others.
The key metrics for high-level engagement are:
- Meaningful comments that contain or imply your key messages
- Retweets with edits
- Creation of original content
- Registering for an event
- Providing an email address
- Click-throughs to a URL
As we’ve said elsewhere, you want to keep your number of metrics small. Following that advice, many organizations have adopted a bespoke engagement index that is weighted based on their organization’s specific priorities and market.
Your custom social media engagement index
At its core, an index is an indicator or measure of something — in practice, it is a shorthand way to rate the quality or value of your efforts. Typically, an index combines different metrics that are totaled or averaged to produce a single number that should reflect what your organization considers “good” or “bad.” If you are a new organization and trying to build a following, a like might be an acceptable level of engagement. If you are an established brand with a message to get across, then a like or even a short comment may not be sufficient.
To develop a customized index for social media engagement with your brand or program (i.e., any owned media), start by referring to your goals:
- What are the priorities and objectives of your specific program?
- What sort of engagement do you want to encourage?
- What types of content make your target audiences act?
- What are the steps in your sales process and how does social media play into that path to purchase?
- What actions on the part of the consumers of your content are indicative of person is moving closer to purchase? (You may need to talk to your sales people or market researchers to define this.)
That will determine the weightings and the specific elements of your index. It might look something like the suggested scoring below, and would be applied to all your content:
Typical Weighted Social Media Engagement Index
|Share this content (including retweets, forwards, shares etc.)
|Clicks on a sign-up form to receive email or other content
|Comment contains one or more key messages
|Positive recommendation (leaves a reader more likely to invest in or work for your company, or buy a product)
|Contains a negative comment
|Shares a link to your website
|Total Score (for an item of content)
Each item of your content receives a score, then both the total score and the average score per month or week is calculated. Ideally you would collect three to six months of data and correlate it with sales leads, conversions, or some other business metric. That way you will be able to determine which actions are associated most closely with the business outcomes.
There are any number of tools, like Simply Measured or Sprout Social, that will provide most of this information. You will need a web analytics tool like Google Analytics (or Simply Measured) to find the number of clicks to specific URLs and to determine correlation rates with web traffic.
Analyze your numbers
What you should be measuring is the increase over time, not just the raw numbers. The engagement health of a campaign or effort is indicated by the trend of its index numbers over time. Ideally, you want to see them go up. But low numbers are helpful, too, as they indicate efforts that need overall or to be dropped.
To compare the various campaigns and efforts that you’ve undertaken (e.g., email, video, tweets, “likes,” phone calls, etc.,), rank order them based on your engagement index to determine what is most effective. Next, think about the resources that each one requires, then rank order in terms of resources. Now plot each one out on a quadrant chart to identify the ones that required the least resources but generated the highest levels of engagement. Here’s an example of a quadrant chart: