A key metric used in today’s world of social media and online communications is engagement.
And for good reason. Engaging our key target audience communities – customers, constituents and stakeholders, influencers etc – is critical.
It means that in a sea of noise, at least people are taking notice of your brand. Let’s face it, cutting through the informational clutter and gaining people’s attention is a tough assignment today, and the first port of call for anyone building a brand, selling a product or service, or gaining public support for their cause or issue.
Engagement can manifest itself in number of ways, including likes, reactions, comments and shares of the content you publish on social media and owned media channels such as a blog.
This is the ‘public face’ of engagement and is pretty important because social proof can be an effective sign that people are taking an interest in a brand. N.B. There are a number of things that make up social proof, as explained in this excellent Kissmetrics article.
Of course, such public participation can be incredibly fleeting in today’s noisy social age; the goal is to ‘move the needle’ from fleeting to a level of more substantive engagement, but that’s a topic for another time.
Another solid reason people’s engagement is important is because it also helps with amplification of content on social channels. As a rule (and the rules do change!), the more your content on social platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn is liked, shared and commented upon, the more your organic reach will be.
Of course, we are all slaves to the vagaries of each platform’s algorithm, but this is definitely something I’m currently seeing first-hand. For example, our agency is working with one client who’s ‘killing it’ on Linkedin by posting interesting (micro) stories and quirky anecdotes in the newsfeed.
While this client has around 3700 connections and followers on the platform, his posts are routinely generating 5000, 7000 … up to 15,000 and 20,000 views. The reason? People are genuinely engaging with his content – he’s getting lots of likes, shares and comments.
Ditto another client. Their Facebook page has only 970 followers but the micro-videos we’re posting are consistently generating solid organic reach of 800, 1000, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1700, 1800, 2000, 2200, 2600, 2900, 3500, 6800 (with numbers of views equating to – on average – roughly a third of reach). Again, this organic reach has been influenced by the level of engagement each video is routinely getting.
(N.B. Studies have shown that Facebook’s average organic reach is anywhere between two and 16 per cent, according to this HubSpot article).
Thus, it’s understandable many people in business, PR and marketing are keen for people to engage with the content they post on social media and owned media platforms.
But there’s another side to this equation: The Lurkers!
While public social engagement is important for the myriad reasons outlined above – and specifically because you get to see who is interested in your content, allowing you to interact with them personally should you wish to do so – I urge you not to underestimate the value of ‘lurkers’, those people who might not openly engage with your content but they’re watching and reading and taking notice regardless.
Over the journey, I’ve come to realise that not everyone is active in terms of liking, commenting and sharing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important to my business.
In the earlier days of blogging when people commented a lot on people’s blogs (they’re less inclined to do so today as the conversation continues to move to social platforms), there was a general understanding that only a small percentage of people waded into the comments section. I think it’s safe to say this is the case with social media as well.
Bloggers Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba are attributed with coining the term 90-9-1 back in 2006 to reflect this truism. According to Wikipedia, the 90–9–1 rule states that for websites where users can both create and edit content, one per cent of people create content, nine per cent edit or modify that content, and 90 per cent view the content without contributing. Again, this started with forums and blogging but now extends to social media.
Anecdotally, I know there is value in the ‘invisible 90 per cent’ – the lurkers. I’ve personally had prospective clients say to me on many occasions:
“I’ve been following you on LinkedIn for ages and you keep popping up.”
“I’ve been reading your stuff for a while now.”
And it’s not just me. I’ve spoken to heaps of business owners, professional speakers and the like over the journey who have indicated to me they’ve won over customers who had been following them on social media. These people had never engaged publicly but certainly had taken sufficient notice of what they’d been doing online to get in contact with them.
So if you run a business or are marketing a brand, don’t get too down if the level of likes, shares and comments is not where you’d like it to be.
Absolutely, always strive to lift your content game to build your audience and levels of public engagement – and don’t forget to check your analytics to see how your content is performing across the various online channels – but never forget that while potentially up to 90 per cent of your audience is invisible, they are still out there, taking notice of how you operate on social, the spirit of generosity you display online and the contribution you’re making to the community.
Who knows, maybe you too will get that call out of the blue from a lurker who wants to do business with you!