Social Media Engagement For Organizations: A Beginner’s Guide

Social media engagement is about the relationship between you and your followers. And in the universe of social, it’s arguably the most important measurement of success.

ENGAGEMENT is an umbrella term that encompasses everything from a like to a click to a response.  A high engagement rate generally means people like what you’re sharing. Conversely, a low engagement rate mean you’re missing the mark.

If you’re not sure how well you’re doing when it comes to engagement, don’t stress. It’s a surprisingly easy to find out. Every social media platform offers analytics. The data includes tons of valuable engagement data and it’s pretty easy to access and understand. So, if you don’t know much about your engagement rates, it’s because you’re not looking to find out.

You can’t fix something until you know it’s broken.

Think of all the time and effort you spend creating and sharing on social media. Picking images and video clips. Getting those brand colours and fonts consistent from one platform to another. And don’t even get me started on the time it takes to decide on topics and words.

Social is a THING. So it seems reasonable to make some effort to measure the effectiveness of what you’re doing!

If you want to do better, build authority, and develop a purposeful presence, you need to STOP obsessing about follower count. Dive into those analytics and unearth more useful insights!

Follower Count Is Just A Vanity Metric

We all want to be popular.  But mom was right when she said, “popularity isn’t everything.”

As teenagers, many of us associated being popular with the number of friends we had, as opposed to the value of each individual friendship. This was silliness in high school and it’s still silly, because shallow relationships aren’t meaningful. When it comes to social media, the number of followers you have means nothing if those followers have no genuine interest in your organization.

The size of your audience on social media is meaningless if they are not engaged.

Social Media Engagement Has Measurable Value

Let’s say your organization has five thousand followers on Twitter.  You built that follower base organically.  It took time, but now you’ve got a strong group of followers who enjoy hearing about what you do and how you do it.

You post about an upcoming event hosted by your organization and fifty people share your post. Yay!  Fifteen people leave comments asking for more information. Yay again!  And ten of those commenters end up registering to attend the event. That’s the magic of engagement!

Now let’s imagine that you’ve got ten thousand followers on Twitter, but you bought the majority of them, just to look popular. So what happens when you make that post about the upcoming event?

In this situation, the most likely impact is that NOTHING happens. Nada. No one shares, or comments, or registers to attend. NOTHING happens because you have no real connections with your followers.  At best, they’re disinterested. At worst, they’re just bots.

NEVER buy followers. It’s a major social media faux pas.

Quality Trumps Quantity

Mom was also on-target when she said, “quality is more important than quantity.” I hate to keep pushing mom-isms. But moms are very wise. The quality of your followers AND your content are paramount.

To succeed at social media, stop asking, “How do I get the most followers?”.  Start asking, “How do I create the best content?”

Social media engagement hinges on creating and curating high quality content.  In general, it’s better to share one high-quality post than five meaningless bits of drivel.  That said, you do need to be aware of the personality of each social media site and post accordingly.

Adapt Posting Frequency to Match the Platform

Quality trumps quantity BUT quantity still matters, and it matters more on some platforms than on others.

For example, the LinkedIn community is a business crowd, and they strongly favour quality. Posting two or three high quality pieces of content each week is ideal for them.  In fact, if you post too often, it can be a turnoff.

On the other hand, Twitter demands quantity. There’s an endless demand for more posts, with popular accounts frequently sharing at least eight times a day, and many posting every hour or so. Don’t panic! You can meet the higher content demands without sacrificing quality – but you probably can’t do it alone. The secret here is to share both original content and curated content from reputable sources.

The core component is still QUALITY, but you need to be adaptable.

Engagement Is An Umbrella Term

As mentioned earlier, engagement is an umbrella term. It’s important to understand the different types of engagement, which ones you want the most, and why.

In general, engagement can be sorted into four categories: acknowledgement, association, amplification, and action. All forms of engagement are good and show that you’re doing something right. But not all forms of engagement are created equal.

Focus most on the type of engagement that best aligns with your objectives, and if your goals change over time (which can happen), adjust your social media strategy accordingly.  These adjustments may shift your focus to a different type of engagement. That’s fine.

The important questions to ask yourself are:

  • What type of engagement do we want?
  • What kind of content will drive that type of engagement?
  • How will I measure success (ROI)?

Acknowledgement Engagement

Acknowledgement engagement is when someone likes your content.  Like most things that require little effort, just being liked has minimal value.

This type of engagement does little to promote a public connection to your organization’s content.  That said, the value of a like should not be diminished. After all, you can’t succeed at social media if no one likes your posts!

Acknowledgement engagement tells you that people are looking at your content, and they’re making a positive connection with what you’re putting out there, at least for a moment.

Association Engagement

Association engagement is when someone interacts with your content.  It includes things like replies, comments, mentions, and follows. This is a big step up from simple acknowledgement.  Association requires a greater level of effort and more commitment on the part of the follower.

It serves as proof that you’re posting quality content.  Something you posted inspired people to do more than just hit like. It excited them enough to make them communicate with you in some way, or even become a follower.

Association engagement represents a real, authentic connection with your organization.  And to succeed at social media you need those deeper connections.

Amplification Engagement

Amplification engagement is when someone spreads your content to their audience (e.g., retweets, shares). This exponentially increases the reach of your content.

Best of all, that larger audience is already warm. They didn’t just find you through some random search. Instead, you were introduced by someone they already know – your enthusiastic follower.

Amplification engagement has the power to create brand ambassadors – social media users who endorse your organization each time they share your content.  This is a great compliment and it has tremendous value for your brand.

Action Engagement

Action engagement is when someone clicks through to your website.

When your content spurs people to action and moves them beyond social media, you have a real opportunity to inspire them to do something of higher value to your organization.

Action engagement is the point where your social media activities connect with your nonprofit marketing strategy.  To maximize the effectiveness of action engagement, you need to make sure your website is set up to close the deal.

Ask yourself:

  • What action do I want them to take? (e.g.. join our email list, sign up for something, complete a contact form, donate, buy something)
  • How do I get them to take that action?

What Type of Social Media Engagement Should I Measure?

Depending on your mission and your goals, some types of engagement may be more important to you than others. That said, they are all worth measuring.

For example, if your main goal is to increase your online authority, amplification engagement is very valuable, but if you’re main goal is to grow your email list, action engagement is paramount because it gets people to your website. (where you hopefully have things set up to coax them into giving you their email address!)

Pay attention to the kind of content that’s driving each type of engagement.  This is important because you want to create and curate quality content that drives the best types of engagement for your organization.


Going back to those mom-isms, if you only remember two things from this article, let it be these:

  • Popularity isn’t everything
  • Quality is more important than quantity

Your long-term goal is to create an engaged audience of real people who are genuinely interested in your organization. Engagement is EVERYTHING!

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