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Engage! But what does this really mean, and how do you know if you’re doing it?

By Anna Drennan on Mar 10, 2011 3:30:00 PM

Applying measurements to social media success is a tricky business. ‘Engagement’ is commonly perceived as a valuable end. Yet how to understand it, never mind how to achieve it, is an area still being explored by marketers. Many companies track fan numbers to gauge their Facebook success. But what use are people who don’t interact with you?

Engage! But what does this really mean, and how do you know if you’re doing it?

Attracting people to like your pages is an important first step – they form your potential audience – but if they aren’t interested enough in your brand or content to engage with you, they won’t expose your messaging to their friends and are unlikely to see future content themselves. Facebook’s algorithm to determine what is shown in the news feed considers general interest in an update, as well as someone’s own relationship with the author.

Huge budgets are being plugged into social platforms, but to what end? Developing an attractive fan page with custom tabs is no use if you don’t generate interactions. 85% of a fan’s interactions with a page take place in their news feed, away from the page – so this is where you need to reach them. If you put money into fan page features but don’t build up an interested and engaged support base, no one will come to see them. Visibility in the news feed should be a crucial goal for marketers in Facebook.

So interactions are clearly an important consideration. Facebook provides you with statistics for how many comments, likes and impressions a post receives, as well as its own ‘feedback score’. This is calculated by comments + likes / impressions. This measurement however, is somewhat counter-effective. As impressions go up, the feedback score goes down. Because Facebook decides to show an update with more interactions to more people, these boost the number of impressions. If no more people interact with your update proportionately, your feedback score goes down. If a post is viewed by a few people, the majority of whom interact with it, it will receive a high feedback score. Facebook will deem it interesting and show it to more people. If many more are shown this update, the feedback score is likely to fall. Success leads to at least a period of ‘failure’. A company pursuing a high feedback score may find it particularly confusing when an update appears to do well, and then suddenly fails to resonate with fans.

Conversocial developed IPM (interactions per thousand fans), to try and provide a more meaningful statistic to measure engagement. IPM gives you a score for the number of comments and likes an update receives relative to the fan size at the time it was posted. By tying this analysis to the fan base, it is possible to get a more consistent measurement that can be compared across pages and time. Conversocial’s profiler tool allows you make this comparison with your competitors, by pulling in the average IPM score of any page’s updates over the past month. Taking a look how similar pages to yours are managing to get engagement can be a good indicator of what can be expected for a particular industry or fan size.

A recent investigation into world’s best social brands, based upon reputation, prompts the question of how well this relates to success on owned social platforms. Are the right factors for success being measured? Sentiment has its uses, and is a measurement that can be tracked in Conversocial -monitoring PR results gives valuable feedback for brand initiatives. But scanning the general social web for positive mentions doesn’t address how companies are managing to engage with their own customers.

The brands with the best social reputations are EBay, Apple and Google. Each of these companies has invested time and money into developing their Facebook pages, with a number of custom tabs and features. But our own research into the engagement generated by these companies suggested that they aren’t getting the most out of their resources.  Each page had a surprisingly low IPM score – they could be interacting more with those who have signed up to have a conversation with them. (You can read the full article here).

There seems to be confusion around how engagement in social media should be measured. Conversocial’s analytics help to make this simpler. Now, with an aggregated engagement dashboard, you can measure success across all of your pages, as well as Twitter accounts (IPM works in the same way for interactions relative to your follower base). This enables you to compare your different pages and gauge relative success.

Your IPM scores enable you to benchmark one fan page against another. As can be expected with huge numbers of fans, it can be tricky to achieve the same relative interactions as your support base grows to extreme heights. But this is more reflective of a genuine obstacle - more diverse expectations - than a punitive score for getting higher visibility. Companies may notice relative engagement levels decline when fan numbers rocket, but this is at least gradual and reflective of a real change.

Engagement, rather than impressions alone, is key in social media. Not only does it give you greater visibility, but provides your customers with an experience they expect from social brands – one which is distinct from other media. Communication is two-way and much more personalised. The era of companies blasting one way marketing messages out and sweeping customer feedback under the rug is over; companies must adapt to consumers who are more vocal and powerful than ever. Engagement must be considered not only in terms of practical distribution, but in its traditional social sense. Build up a mutually beneficial relationship with your fans, and everybody is a winner.  

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