This fragile, volatile metric makes promises it cannot keep: the social media user engages with your brand and has positive interactions that can actually turn into brand awareness and equity, an acquisition and brand loyalty. The two words that comprise it mix emotion with math and, therefore, it seems it encompasses both worlds. Reactions/interactions are divided by reach. Simple enough, no?
I think not. Especially for industries where the immediate emotion does not lead to a connection with the brand or a direct sale. Emotion is SO easy to trigger sometimes, SO easy to light up like a fire in a pile of hay. Unlike fire, though, it is SO easy to extinguish. Instead of water, you just let time do the trick. Because unless you constantly feed the emotion, feed the reaction with more and more content, it will die off. Just like fire without oxygen.
Don’t get me wrong. Even after 10+ years in social media marketing, I still get that ego boost when the content I created gets validated online, But I find myself even more engaged when someone I follow and admire comments on one of my posts and said he found value in my article.
Unfortunately, some people and execs only stop at the ego boost. It’s so easy to not go beyond this metric that promises a lot but delivers less and less in this digital environment. It can be a good starting point, yes, provided you are willing to always fuel that fire and can build the behind the scene infrastructure that can not only demonstrate its value to the marketing team and the financial leadership for businesses whose life cycle is longer than, say, a couple of days/minutes.
I’ve had rants on why I don’t trust this metric for B2B businesses for a couple of years so I thought I’d write down the reasons why and what I’d replace it with. Provide the solution along with the problem, right? Come for the rant, stay for the solution, maybe? Let’s go.
Engagement rate: Why It’s Not A Valuable (Read Actionable) Metric for B2B Brands
1: Hard to pull across channels, makes it difficult to have a streamlined definition.
Take video views. Facebook got into a big mess about it and paid $40M to advertisers affected by them lying about video views (with some of those advertisers went out of business because they made decisions on just that one metric). Nowadays, a Facebook/Instagram + IGTV/LinkedIn video view takes 3 seconds while IG Reels/TikToks it’s just one impression and Youtube counts a view after 30-seconds of continuous viewing. You tell me what definition you’d like to use across channels.
It’s he same with engagement. LinkedIn tracks engagement in a different way than Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.
Of course, you can create an engagement-calculated metric and try to leverage it across platforms. I dare you to try that with a company that is not digital savvy whose execs will ask you why the engagement numbers don’t add up to the likes on the update on the page.
2: Not consistent through time. Spoiler alert: bots/fake accounts
Anecdote time: you look at engagements throughout time and divide it by reach to get to that golden formula. Easy, right? But what if you had to pull that exact same data 3 months later and, low and behold, you got different numbers?
At a closer look, you’d probably see that on specific pieces of content the engagements were…negative. Been there, done that. Fake accounts, the horror! Don’t trust me? Then trust Statista data on Facebook
In the first quarter of 2022, Facebook took action on 1.6 billion fake accounts.Statista
3: Raises one big challenge: how do you translate it into business value? Something that C-level execs can understand and relate to?
So your content got you a 70% engagement rate like some ad agencies might have you believe (despite all common sense and industry reports). Looks good on a slide, but can you bring it to the CFO who approves budgets? He might not understand why you need more budget next year unless you translate that engagement rate into brand equity. Can you? If yes, please show me how you do that trick.
What To Replace Engagement Rate With For B2B Brands
Version 1: Brand Usefulness, but keep it simple. Make your content useful and track ONLY that.
I propose you track that: how many shares/sends/reposts/saves/landing page clicks did you get on the content? Keep it organic for a week and then include it in an ongoing paid campaign – check 2). If you have a smaller paid budget, but can produce a lot of valuable content, make it a point to only include those pieces of content that performed above benchmarks (I hope you know your brand’s benchmarks!). For the ones that did not, reshape and recycle, there is no shame in it as long as you craft it from a different angle or give it another format – turn videos into infographics/reels/LinkedIn articles or documents. Your creativity and/or resources are the limit!
Definition: Usefulness=shares+sends+reposts+saves+landing page clicks (feel free to add/edit this to showcase an interaction you translate as this person found our content valuable
Why: drives earned media, and if the content is crafted well, it positions your brand as an opinion leader in its field. Not to mentions, it is highly actionable – you WILL create all of your content with that one purpose – to become useful.
How to communicate it: as the reply to the question how useful are we to our customers?
Version 2. Brand recall/brand lift.
Youtube does it. LinkedIn does it. Facebook does it. I believe even Twitter does it. (Not sure about Tiktok, but, common, let’s be 100% honest, are you ready for all of that for a B2B brand? )
Craft your brand study well and do it across channels. Build those sweet retargeting audiences from these audiences and then use them in MoFu campaigns (Middle of the Funnel, yes, another acronym, but at least this one sounds funny, right?). Measure if retargeting increases the MQLs, SQLs and pipeline. Calculate it in $$$. That you can bring to your CFO and he will take you to the bank (or increase your Pcard limit so you can scale it!)
Definition: Brand lift is the measurement of how your marketing message uplifts your audience’s recognition of your brand.
Why: outstood the test of time AND is actionable if done right. Caveat – you need your sweet time with this. Time and resources. And forces you to stand the fuck out as one smart handsome French guy keeps telling us.
How to communicate it: as one answer to the double jointed question how recognizable are our brand values and what business value does that bring?
3. Economic value
It’s just math, but it’s not for the ones faint of heart. My least favorite option, but in case of stubborn management, you can try to forge it.
You take the magic or the emotion out of the picture 100% and just focus on the numbers. You get yourself all the historical data and try to assign $$$ value to specific interactions. Use a regressional model, doomed to be fickle in the face of social platforms and economic changes. But, hey, we are doing our best to provide value, to answer that pesky question of why should anyone care (the answer is revenue, always!).
LinkedIn Elevate (legacy LinkedIn Employee Advocacy tool) had this interesting way of attributing value: $X/share. I’ve heard about it in other discussions. What if you could attribute $$$ value to an SM MQL? And then you’d go back from there and create an attribution model for each type of Social Media interaction. Avinash Kaushik’s legendary 2011 article (yes, 2011, you read that right!) details how you can try to forge this into existence.
Definition: you are on your own on this one. It depends A LOT on whether you sell your products online or not if your execs can get on board with such convoluted math if you do figure out a way to assign value to micro-interactions and what those truly are. And you find a way to communicate all of this data in a streamlined automated dashboard that anyone can get in the first 5 minutes of glancing at it.
My Favourite Pick, Brand Usefulness. Why?
- You can understand it and I dare to suggest most people could get it. Right?
- It helps build your brand in a relevant manner to both your potential customer and yourself.
- It tells you what content to produce and how and speaks volumes about how you bring value into people’s lives. (On this note, please, please check out Katelyn Bourgoin’s speech on why we actually buy things in both our personal and professional lives)
- It takes time and creativity and a true passion for valuable content. Not braggy, not gimmicky, one that has some utility in one’s life. And it takes courage and support from leadership as you WILL have to fend off all the stakeholders that claim that people on social are just dying to Learn More about them having a booth at an event in some other corner of the world they definitely cannot travel to in 2 hours.
- If done right, you can also layer in this step from Brand Uplift to help take it to your CFO and CCO and all the Os that care about $$$:
Build those sweet retargeting audiences from promoting this highly useful content to prospect audiences (or cold) and use them in MoFu campaigns to calculate how much more $$$ you generate by retargeting these already engaged audiences that your brand brought value to compared to targeting cold audiences.
Are you still with me? 1,658 words later the rant is over. Thank you for your time, I hope some of this helps you or inspires you to write your own. If you want to exchange ideas or tell me where I am wrong, let’s grab a lemonade together! On me! Just reach out at email@example.com with the Subject line: Oana, want my lemonade! or, if you’re based in Romania, call me at 0799347308.