What’s the Real Value of Social Media Engagement? How Can It Be Measured?


Social media speech balloons with :Business Objectives"

Is social media engagement over-rated? Some marketers judge social media success by the number of blog comments, Facebook page comments, “likes,” and retweets.

But businesses can’t pay the bills with engagement. Leads, clients, and sales—not engagement—are the currency of business. Engagement is not a goal, only a tactic to produce measurable business results.

Ultimately, it’s irrelevant if customers or prospects comment on your page or not — as long as they buy your product or hire you. If readers aren’t commenting on your posts, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t find your content valuable. Some blogs, including some blogs with large followings, have turned off their blog comments.

Can’t Get Any Blog Comments?

Digital marketing consultant Sarah Santacroce recalled in a LinkedIn Pulse post that she previously argued that social media engagement is the key to success. Yet she was perplexed and somewhat embarrassed because her own blog posts attracted few comments.

Many of her readers were Europeans, not prone to posting comments. In addition to a cultural mentality leaving them averse to openly expressing opinions, many were not comfortable writing in English, which was not their native language.

However, she was still getting visibility and leads. Readers often would send private messages about her posts or mention her blog to her in person. Other European-based bloggers relayed similar experiences.

Tie Engagement to Business Objectives

Engagement must be linked to business objectives, asserts Mark Schaefer of Businessgrow. Engagement is only a tool, one that’s not very valuable on its own unless its tied to a measurable goal. Those goals can be customer acquisition, product development, customer service, or brand awareness.

“Consider those before you start making cat memes for your corporate Facebook page,” Schaefer states in his Slideshare presentation.

High engagement doesn’t necessarily equal financial success. Ignoring social media doesn’t necessarily project business failure. Apple has the largest brand value in the world, $104.3 billion, but the company has largely ignored social media. It hasn’t produced a single Facebook post. It does have a Tumblr page for the iPhone5c, which is more like an interactive ad than a social media page.

The Costs of Engagement

Like any other business activity, engagement entails costs and resources that must be balanced against results. The key to success is determining how engagement will help you reach your business goals.

Web strategist Stephan Hovnanian of Shovi Websites argues that social media engagement still matters, although its popularity as a standalone metric has faded.

Responding to customer inquiries on their social media sites is a priority for any business, he writes in a LinkedIn Pulse post. Depending on their industry, businesses can also benefit by sharing positive social media mentions. Social media engagement for customer service is truly meaningful and measurable engagement that produces real value.

Brands can also benefit from proactive social engagement, or seeking content to engage beyond their own notification screens. Brands can monitor social media for brand mentions, keywords, and questions to find customer service and lead generation opportunities, sometimes at the expense of a competitor that isn’t monitoring as closely. That type of social media engagement has value. But getting and counting “likes” and other types of vanity engagement has little business benefit.

Bottom Line: With the exception of customer service, social media engagement has little inherent value. It’s only a means to an end. Engagement must be tied to measurable business objectives in order to quantify its success. ∞

Photo credit: Daniel Iverson

About Author

Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.