social media engagement benefits
Photo credit: Randy Barnes

The debate over the importance of social media engagement continues.

Measuring engagement is among the most controversial issues and one of the largest challenges facing social media marketers. Some marketers act as if their number of shares and likes is the most important measurement of success; as CyberAlert’s recent blog post suggested, others believe engagement isn’t even worth measuring.

Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Nate Elliott recently stated that social media engagement is not a useful metric. It does not correlate to business metrics like loyalty or sales. He recommends that marketers should stop measuring engagement.

“If you’re a social marketer and you want to impress your boss — and get more funding for your efforts — then it’s time to stop measuring social engagement,” Elliott wrote in his blog post Stop Measuring Social Engagement. “Instead, bring your CMO reports from sales tracking vendors, platforms that collect data into customer databases, and survey tools. You’ll be speaking their language, and your budget will benefit.”

Even Facebook warns that engagement metrics are “not a reliable indicator” of whether social marketing improved your business, he says.

Others beg to differ with Elliott.

Engagement may not be the best metric and may have little or no direct relationship to business goals like sales and customer loyalty, concedes Mark Traphagen, senior director of Online Marketing for Stone Temple Consulting. But engagement is far from useless, he argues in his Marketing Land column.

While the numbers of followers, likes, shares and retweets do not measure marketing success, they do reveal important information that marketers ignore at their own risk.

How Social Media Engagement Can Help Marketers

Evaluate your content. Engagement can indicate that your content appeals to your audience – or doesn’t. More in-depth analysis can reveal what types of followers are engaging the most and identify influencers and your biggest fans.

Engagement metrics can show which networks are more valuable for your organization and where marketing teams should commit resources. One-click engagement such as Facebook likes does little to increase the reach of your posts, but shares and retweets put your post in front of more people.

Boost website traffic. Internet studies as well as his company’s own experience contradict Forrester’s assertion that social media reach does not boost website traffic and organic search results, Traphagen says. A Socialbakers study concludes that the number of social interactions with a company’s social media posts correlates to the number of visits to the company’s website. When social interactions go up, website traffic goes up. Other studies also show a link between engagement and organic traffic. Correlation does not equal causation, he cautions, but engagement is one measure of a website’s success.

Social engagement can increase exposure for your content, prompting more websites to link to it which in turn increases your website ranking. Study your Web analytics to see if rising social reach correlates with rising organic search traffic for your site. If it does, then drill deeper to learn which networks help the most. If it doesn’t, re-evaluate your social media plans.

Generate sales leads. Although social media can bring visitors to your website, it doesn’t sell. Your website must convert visitors to customers by offering relevant content that prompts them to stay on the site and return.

If a social network has high engagement but drives little traffic, either re-evaluate your presence there or evaluate how you can better target your audience on that network.

Bottom Line: Social media engagement has little or no direct connection to core business objectives like ROI. Still, engagement metrics can provide crucial information that can help companies improve marketing strategies, increase website traffic and obtain sales leads.

What’s your opinion? Should marketers measure social media engagement? Why?

This article was originally published in the CyberAlert blog.

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