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Why Are Social Engagement Metrics Useful? – Here’s Why with Mark & Eric

Some marketing insiders say that social media engagement is not a reliable or useful metric. Some point to a lack of evidence that social media engagement correlates to direct sales. In this episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric, Mark Traphagen will show you why engagement metrics should not only not be ignored, but measured and acted upon.

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Eric: Are social engagement metrics dead on arrival? Mark Traphagen doesn’t think so, and I’m gonna ask him to explain why.
Eric: Mark, why are some people saying engagement metrics on social media are worthless?
Mark: Well, some point to a lack of evidence that social media engagement correlates to direct sales. Now others say it’s not a good indicator of long term customer loyalty. The problem with such statements is that it’s nearly impossible to track things like direct sales or long term customer relationships from social media, and people don’t usually go directly from any one social media post to buy something.
Now that doesn’t mean social media can’t have an effect on the process that leads up to someone making a decision to purchase. Since you can’t track the activity of any individual social media user over time, you don’t know the cumulative effect that your brand social media content may be having on his or her buyer journey or brand satisfaction, so it’s unrealistic to expect that if we have high post engagement on a particular day, that we’ll also have lots of sales on that day. But the cumulative effect over time may be that many of those engaged followers will become buyers.
Eric: So, if we can’t link social engagement directly to sales on a one to one basis, what good are engagement metrics?
Mark: Well Eric, I have good news!
Eric: Great!
Mark: Your social engagement numbers not only are not dead, but they can also be a rich source of valuable marketing information. Now it’s certainly true that you should not make social engagement metrics your primary focus or sole means of evaluating social media effectiveness. However, because engagement numbers are the easiest to collect and the most complete metrics we have for social media, it would be foolish to ignore them!
First, you can use them to evaluate campaign effectiveness. Engagement levels can be a good first indicator of what kind of content you’re sharing most resonates with your audience. You can drill down further into those metrics to discover audience segments that best connect with different types of content and posts. And finally, you should look at the types of engagement different content gets. Not all engagement actions are equal. Content that gets comments or reshares is generally more valued by your audience than just likes or +1’s.
Eric: What about SEO Mark? Some people think that search engines use links on social media that get high engagement as a ranking factor.
Mark: Well indeed, there are studies that show a good correlation between high social engagement levels and brands that rank highly in search. But that doesn’t mean that social engagement CAUSED the higher rankings. We have no conclusive evidence that that happens. Instead, it’s more likely that sites that get high engagement also have great content that gets good search ranking signals. For more on that, see my article about social’s effect on Google linked below.
But more importantly for our topic today, increased social engagement can drive the kind of broader reach for your content that increases chances that the content will get linked to. So you’ll want to watch to see if highly engaged social media links correspond with increased organic traffic to the linked pages. Then, dig deeper to see which networks seem to have the highest correlation. That data might indicate where you are doing best with reaching the right people.
Eric: You mentioned earlier that although social posts don’t usually drive direct sales, they can and do have an indirect effect on sales and leads. How so?
Mark: Well, it’s not the job of social media to convert, but it IS the job of your website. How to optimize landing pages on your site for conversions is another topic for another day, so let’s just say for now that social can have value in bringing people to your site, exposing them to your content again and again, and thereby provide opportunities for your sites conversion efforts to go to work.
Social Bakers released an interesting study that showed a high correlation between levels of social engagement and traffic to a site. The inference seems to be that a more engaged social audience is more willing to take a deeper look at your site and its contents, and once there you can try to get their e-mail address, entice them to subscribe, do whatever it takes to start building that relationship that could lead down the road to a sign-up or a sale.
Once again the takeaway here is to look for correlations between social engagement and site traffic and use that to evaluate the effectiveness of your various social networks, your content, and your marketing campaigns.
Eric: Be sure to subscribe to our channel so you never miss helpful videos like this one. We’ll see you next time on Here’s Why.

Thoughts on “Why Are Social Engagement Metrics Useful? – Here’s Why with Mark & Eric”

  1. The problem with using Social Signals to improve rankings, is that they can easily be corrupted with auto systems, or even humans paid to engage with the soclial media page and the website.
    So the data I have suggests that search engines have reduced their use of social signals for ranking puposes.
    But to suggest that social signals are ignored totally cannot be true and must be factor above time on site, bounce rate etc.
    I also do believe that social can instigate an introduction to a company where a sale may not occur for months or even years later. But without that initial awareness, the sale may not have occured at all.

  2. Hi Mark – there is a difference between a user learning about you via social media (which I agree with) and search engines using it as a ranking factor. We do believe that social shares of links are used for discovery of content, however. And, there can be many indirect affects as well. For example, lots of (legit) social shares can cause exposure to people that may link to your content, or visit it.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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