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Stop the Follower Madness: Why Social Engagement Is More Important than EverAt the rise of social media marketing, the page likes count was all the hype. Obviously, the better the product, or the popular the person is, the more followers they’d get. It all makes sense on the basic level.

Yet, these days the hype has shifted from likes count to engagement rates.

I can hear sighs of relief from some (“Finally no more race to hundreds of thousands of likes”) and some disgruntlement (“Ugh, now that I spent all this time, money and effort, you say it doesn’t matter?”).

Maybe you’ve paid all these money to promote your page and increase the number of your followers just in time to find out that now engagement is “the new black.”

So, why is social media engagement important? Why you should focus on engagement and not the number of followers? I’ll explain.

Actually, you might find it a much better strategy in the long run anyway. It might put you ahead of the game.

Engagement as a metric of value

The like counts still matter on a psychological level, because we as consumers believe the popularity of a given product to be correlated with its quality. We as business owners also look at the like counts as a metric for reputation of the company and as a metric for effectiveness of social media marketing efforts.

So, let me ask you this: did you pay to have lots of followers and now you have almost no engagement?

It might very well be not the case for your business (high five, awesome you!). Chances are, however, that your engagement rates are less than satisfactory and might be even close to zero. So, what happened there?

Two things might have happened.

Number one is that you’ve paid for likes and you’ve received a lot of them, but they’re not high-quality followers. Let me explain that: If you’ve paid to promote your page and receive likes from highly-targeted audience, you might be very well off right now, hence high engagement rates.

Yet, if you’ve promoted your page to just about anyone with very little precision (anyone in the United States, 18 to 65 years of age), you’re screwed.

You’ve received those likes but a majority of these people could not care less about your offering (ouch!). They will either gradually unfollow the page or just ignore its contents in their newsfeeds, pulling your engagement rate even further down.

As a result of algorithm changes on both Facebook and Instagram, both platforms now “calculate” what content is deemed interesting and relevant.

The more likes, comments and shares you get, the more probable it is that the content is good, therefore it enjoys higher reach rate.

If we go back to the irrelevant audience that likes your page but doesn’t engage with its content, guess what? Your Edge Rank (the thing that looks at how “qualified” your content is) will go south, grabbing organic reach rate along with it.

The second thing that could happen here is that your content is, well, not that interesting. You might be targeting the right people with the wrong content, OR the wrong audience with the right content. It might just be that they don’t feel connected to the page and that the posts you craft so meticulously every day are just not what gets your audience to tick.

social engagement

Evoking a sense of nostalgia works well for building emotional connections

So, why social media engagement is important?

A majority of networks give a push to the most popular posts, because there are high chances of even more people liking that same content and finding it relevant. This is how content goes viral – by earning more likes, comments and shares in a “snowball” manner.

Because of the new algorithms, more popular content is bound to be interesting and engage more and more people as it is shared.

social engagement

Sometimes you “cheat” the system a little by asking people to vote through likes or shares

What types of engagement are the best?

Both Facebook and Instagram count clicks on links or photo views as an engagement, although it’s not visible to users. It’s better than nothing but it’s not that exciting. You might get traffic from this type of engagement, but to catch the social viral wave, you’ve got to produce content that prompts people to comment on it or share it.

Next in the line are likes. Like is a better measure of interest, yet, because it’s so easy to push that button, it’s not really that strong of a signal to networks.

Comments are better. It shows that people want to discuss that specific piece of content or have something to add. Because people take the time to leave comments, networks perceive this piece of content as engaging.

social engagement

“Caption this” type of posts work great too (that is, if you can find a funny image). Kitties work like charm for engagement rates, too.

Finally, you get the gold if people tend to share your content a lot. This shows the algorithms that your content is so interesting and relevant that people want to share it with their connections and spread the word about it even wider into the world. Aim to get as many shares as possible.

So, what do we aim for? To produce content so great, people spend their time and energy to engage with it through discussions and shares. We want their commitment and dedication to our content.

What content gets most shared?

Of course, you can bluntly ask people to share your content, but if it’s not a really worthy piece of content, a majority of your audience probably won’t share it.

What gets shared without asking? Most of the time it’s the content that serves one or multiple content objectives:

  • entertain,
  • educate,
  • empower,
  • engage.

Strive to post something that strikes the chord of at least one of these Es (the more the better).

Also, people love to share something cool to associate themselves with something awesome, be it a cool trend, a hip product, or an innovative technology. Identify what makes your product or offering “cool,” what people in your target audience would want to associate themselves with and go for the gold.

social engagement

Striking visuals disrupt scrolling and provoke them to engage with post

By the way, Social Media Examiner has an amazing study about the types of content that gets shared the most.

How do engagement rates affect your business?

Better yet, ask how this information will put you ahead of your competition.

Well, I am glad you asked.

If your competitors continue to buy cheap likes from random countries, allow them to have at it. By buying likes, they’re buying following from people (not to mention all the bots), who really couldn’t care less about their company, their offering, their content. By buying likes, they continue to decrease their Edge Rank, which pulls down their organic reach.

Buying irrelevant likes = not being seen by relevant audiences.

This is not to say you absolutely shouldn’t run campaigns for followers. If you feel like you just need that extra push, of course, you should advertise. If you do, all I want you to be aware of is that you should run awareness campaigns (because this is what they are) to a very specific, targeted audience that will be interested in following you. Target people based on their interests, demographics, and life stages. Target people based on location, if you run a local business. But even if location is not important to you, make sure that people you are targeting speak your language, so country restrictions and/or language restrictions are an extra step to ensure your followers understand you and your messages.

Buying irrelevant likes = not being seen by relevant audiences.

Now, if you want to do it organically – great. Make sure you have the right audience and that you share relevant messages with them.

It seems that the business world is moving towards serving defined niches. It makes sense to strive to be the best in their respective areas, because it reduces production and marketing expenses and costs, yet increases sales and authority.

social engagement

Amazing post that inspires and moves, hence the amount of shares

How does this strategy can give your business a real advantage?

Think about it this way: would you prefer to have 100,000 followers who bought your product once, or 5,000 followers who buy your product consistently every month? Would you want 100,000 people following you and not recommending your product to their friends or 5,000 very vocal brand ambassadors who talk about your product every chance they get, spreading the word further?

Strive to define a niche for your business and target this specific audience with your content. The people in this niche will find your content much more relevant and will engage with it, sharing it with their networks. Now that more and more people engage with your content, it sends a signal to network algorithms that this content is worthy enough to push out to even more newsfeeds. This is why social engagement is much more important than mere likes count. Quality over quantity.

Engagement is a much better prediction of the quality of your content, which, after some time, builds loyalty in your audience. It levels the playing field for all the players.  If you’re just starting out or your budget is very limited, you have the same chances of being seen as the bigger players.

So, if you’ve built a small but loyal following, your engagement rates will signal networks that more people will find this post interesting. This is how you become a leader in your niche.

Once you’ve built a small but loyal following, your engagement rates will signal networks that more people will find this post interesting. This is how you become a leader in your niche.

Yes, it’s a slower process than just throwing a ton of money out on followers, but it is a much better bet in the long run. If you continuously pump out amazing, insightful information people love to read and share, you are in the gold, because they will eventually develop a habit to look out for your next piece.

To sum it all up, don’t stress so much about the follower base, pay attention and put your efforts into engagement.

Forget about buying followers, paying for bot services, and promoting your page to “everyone in the United States ages 18 to 65.” If you strive to build a meaningful community that regularly contributes to your bottom line, get to know them, engage them, and provide immense value in informational form first.

Do you enjoy a lot of social engagement? What are your strategies to increase likes, comments and shares? Share your reasons why social engagement is important in the comment section below or head over to Instagram @lesyaliu to continue the conversation.