Social media engagement metrics are faulty

There is a never-ending cycle of social media performance charts, using dubious metrics, to qualify ‘the most engaged brands’.

Social media engagement is subjective and contextual. Attempting to apply a mass measurement for engagement across brands is like comparing apples with bananas.

Engagement of any type is based on ‘emotion in context’, and is the fundamental ingredient for a brand’s social media engagement strategy.

When I engage with a washing powder brand I feel emotionally different about keeping my clothes clean than when I am booking an airline to travel with.

My level of conversation and emotional engagement is non-comparable in terms of volume or sentiment.  The context is completely different and unique to each experience.

So when analysing Mashable’s ‘most engaged brands on Facebook’, I was surprised to find they published this:

The context of my engagement, my investment and my ‘volume’ of conversations between any of the listed brands are substantially different.

For example, Intel is likely to engage me in a highly valuable conversation but to a select few tech influencers and orientated in a professional context. My engagement with Disney would have me in clucking-mother mode and comparing Avon and Coca-Cola just confuses me!

The value of brand engagement can only be measured in the context of the person or community, not in the context of the brand. It may be small, highly qualified connections and valuable, thoughtful content, or it may be massive and less quality or time invested in its chit-chat. But the true value for the brand will always be what is contextually relevant to the person, an upside-down paradigm from the traditional marketing model or traditional metric based on volume.

A few of the comments in response to Mashable:

“When looked at as a percentage of overall followers, the results are no better than most small companies. For example, our company achieves a metric of 6.13%, which is nearly 5x higher than that of Coca-Cola.”

“Sincerely I’m expecting really more from Mashable than a ranking based on the PTAT metric, everybody knows it’s irrelevant and mainly based on social ads investment … using’s  engagement rate metric for example would be much more realistic about who’s the ‘number-one brand on Facebook’!”

SaaS provider Nestivity announced in April the 25 most engaged brands on Twitter. The engagement analysis is of the 100 most followed brands on Twitter. It is clear having more Twitter followers and/or posting more content does not translate into more engagement.

Despite posting content every six to 20 minutes throughout the month of February, none of the most prolific content creators made the top 25 most engaged list,” said Dr. Natalie Petouhoff.

That means brands have to not only create great content but also learn how to use it for engagementAnd while all of the top 25 have more than 1 million followers, so do 70% of the least engaged brands.”

So why keep using this metric then?

Social media engagement is not a contest to see who the winner is in the ranking charts based on numbers.

It requires a customised approach to understand what triggers an emotion, and in what context, between a brand and a consumer. Then work out what the value is and repeat, test, learn and continue your engagement strategy.

It is not ‘let’s check out what Coke do and try to beat them on the social media engagement rankings’.

My favourite engagement story this week is this entertaining article. It will make you realise that so many popsicle brands really don’t know how to engage like the International House of Pancakes @IHOP. There’s a worthy social media engagement comparison.

Fi Bendall is the managing director of Bendalls Group, a team of highly trained digital specialists, i-media subject matter experts and developers.


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