How to Drive Social Media Engagement and Stop Obsessing About Follower Count

Social media engagement is about the relationship between you and your followers.  It is a big, all-encompassing term that covers everything from a like to a click to a response.  Getting measurable, meaningful engagement requires considerable thought and effort.

Obviously, you need an audience.  If your brand has no followers, you have no one to engage with.  But follower count only matters if those followers are potential customers.  The obsession about follower count is usually more about vanity than business.

Follower Count Is Just A Vanity Metric

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

In high school, most of us associated “popularity” with the number of friends we had, not with the value of those friendships.

When developing a social media strategy, many of us continue to confuse the width of social media engagement – how many followers we have – with the depth of engagement – our relationship with those followers.

But just like in high school, the number of people clamoring around doesn’t matter if no one is paying attention and no one truly cares about what you are saying.

To develop and implement a social media strategy that really works, you need to stop obsessing about follower count.  Instead, focus your time and attention on what truly matters –  engagement.

Social Media Engagement Has Measurable Value

Let’s say your company has 5,000 followers on Twitter.  You built your follower base organically.  It took time.  Your followers now include influencers and micro-influencers, clients, local businesses, friends, and colleagues.

You post about an upcoming event where you will be a featured speaker.  50 people share your post.  15 people leave comments asking for more information.  10 of the commenters end up registering to attend the event.

This is what real social media engagement can achieve.  This is valuable.

Let’s say your company has 20,000 followers on Twitter.  You purchased these fans because you wanted your brand to look popular.  But when you make that post about your upcoming event, you get zero, or close to zero, engagement.

No one shares your post, or leaves comments, or registers to attend the event.  Your follower count is irrelevant because they have no value.

You don’t have a “real” relationship with these followers.  They don’t care about your content.  In fact, most of them probably aren’t even real people.

Social Media Engagement Mantra: Quality Trumps Quantity

Quality versus quantity concept shown as a young woman in a burgundy sweatshirt clutching an armful of office files with her right arm and a large silver trophy with her left arm. She is kissing the trophy in a sign of victory.While I hate to keep quoting my mother, I must admit that she was also on-target with the adage, “quality is more important than quantity.”

The quality of your followers and the quality of your content are paramount.  Whether you have 500, 5000, or 50,000 followers, is not as important.

Instead of concentrating on trying to get the most views, you need to start focusing on sharing meaningful content and connecting with followers who are interested in that content.

Social media engagement hinges on creating and curating high quality content.  In general, it is better to share a high-quality post once a day than 5 meaningless posts every day.  That said, you do need to be aware of the “personality” of each social media site and post accordingly.

For example:

On LinkedIn, posting two or three high quality pieces of content each week is fine.  But on Twitter, this level of activity is too low to be effective.

This does not mean that you should post an endless stream of motivational quotes on Twitter.  Note: This is one of my personal pet peeves.

But if Twitter is part of your digital marketing strategy, you should factor in the higher volume of content required.  You will almost certainly need to post a combination of original content and high quality curated content.  In contrast, on LinkedIn, you may be able to create enough original content to dominate your online activity.

Whether posting original, branded content, or curated content, the keyword is “quality”.  To maximize social media engagement rates, every post, including videos, infographics, blog articles, and even the dreaded motivational quotes, must be chosen carefully and strategically.

Both original and curated content must enhance your brand and make followers care about you.  At the end of the day, that is the only way to succeed at social media.  That is the end game.

Engagement Is An Umbrella Term

“Engagement” is an umbrella term.  It encompasses all sorts of measureable actions including clicks, likes, shares, comments, replies, etc.  To be effective, your social media strategy needs specific targets.

You need to understand the type of engagement you are going after, and why. In general, engagement can be sorted into 4 categories: acknowledgement, association, amplification, and action.

All forms of engagement are good -and desirable – and a sign that you are doing something right. But not all forms of engagement are created equal.

Your social media strategy should focus most on the type of engagement that best aligns with your digital marketing objectives.  If those objectives change over time (which is likely), you will need to adjust your social media strategy.  These adjustments may shift your focus to a different type of engagement.

Acknowledgement Engagement 

Acknowledgement engagement is when someone reacts to your content.  While it is always nice to be “liked”, it is important to remember that this is the easiest type of engagement.

Acknowledgement requires very little effort on the part of the follower.  And, like most things that require minimal effort, it has only minimal value.

This type of engagement does very little to promote a public connection to the content, or to your brand.  That said, the value of a “like” should not be diminished.

You cannot succeed at social media if no one likes your posts!  Acknowledgement engagement tells you that people are looking at your content.  And they are making a positive connection with what you are 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 are posting quality content.  Something you posted inspired followers to do more than just “like” you.  It excited them enough to make them “talk” to you and/or become a follower.

Association engagement represents a real, authentic connection with your brand.  To succeed at social media you need those connections.

Amplification Engagement

Amplification engagement is when someone spreads your content to their audience (e.g. retweets, shares, re-blogs).  This is something you definitely want!

Amplification exponentially increases the reach of your content and exposes your brand to a larger audience.  And, that larger audience receives your content through a source they are already familiar with.

Amplification engagement has the power to create brand ambassadors – social media users who are saying “this content is great” by sharing it with their followers.  This is a great compliment and it has tremendous value!

The more people share your content the faster you will succeed at social media marketing.

Action Engagement

Action engagement is when someone clicks through to your website.  This is the ultimate goal!

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

Action engagement is the point where your social media activities connect with your brand’s overall 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 an email list, contact your company, make an online purchase)
  • How do I get them to take that action?

What Type of Social Media Engagement Should I Measure?

social media strategy concept shown as a female in business attire looking quizzically at a laptopYour social media strategy should include ways to measure success, including a way to measure each type of engagement.  Depending on your objectives, you may focus more attention on one type of engagement over another, but they are all important.

For example, if you have developed a social media strategy that focuses on increasing brand recognition, amplification engagement is very valuable to you.

If one of your primary objectives is to grow your email list, action engagement is paramount because it gets people to your website (where you hopefully inspire them to give you their email).

Pay attention to the kind of content that is driving each type of engagement.  This is important.  Ultimately, you want to create and curate quality content that aligns with the objectives identified in your social media strategy.

As I have said already, your objectives may change over time, and the type of engagement you most want may change accordingly.

Regardless of what type of engagement you are focusing on, remember that every type of engagement is good.  And everything good should be measured!


Going back to my mother’s words of wisdom, there are two main takeaways from this article:

  1. Popularity isn’t everything
  2. Quality is more important than quantity

It is better to have a small audience of real, relevant followers than a giant audience of disinterested people and bots.

Just like in high school, you want to develop a community of people who are both interesting to you, and interested in you.  To do this, you need to stop obsessing about your follower count.  Engagement is everything!

Do you know who your ideal client is?  Because you are far more likely to create engaging content when you  really know who you are trying to engage.

Your Ideal Customer cover

Identify your ideal customer!

Download the Ideal Customer Worksheet to help you learn exactly who your ideal customer is and how to connect with them online.

Article written by Kim Scaravelli, CEO, Trust Communications Inc.  


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