Mikolai Napieralski is a Digital Marketing and Communications Expert. This post was originally presented as a talk at the Museums and Web Asia 2014 conference in South Korea. http://artsdigital101.tumblr.com/ @artsdigital101
It’s nice to be popular. And when it comes to social media, popularity is easy to measure – the more friends or followers you have, the more popular you are.
At least that’s how it used it work… but social media is evolving. And organisations are realizing that their social media metrics need to go beyond a simple popularity contest. In other words, the quality of your friends and followers is just as important as the quantity.
That’s where engagement rates come in. An engagement rate is the percentage of people who saw a post and responded to it by either
- liking it,
- sharing it,
- clicking on it,
- commenting on it.
It’s important because it helps us measure public interest in the content we’re publishing. Simply put, do your friends and followers actually care about the material that you’re posting and are they interacting with it?
Engagement rates vary across different social media and depend on the size of your audience. There is no ‘magic number’ that you should be aiming for, but being aware of your engagement rates helps an organisation
- Track their content’s reach,
- Provides a baseline against which other posts can be measured
- Helps gauge your organisation’s social media success relative to other, similar organisations
So what does it say about your social media output if you have a whole load of followers and only a handful of ‘likes’ per post?
Well it can suggest that your friends and followers suck (because you purchased them with cheap clickbait ads). Or your content sucks. Or maybe a mutant combination of both. Either way, it means you’re not getting the most out of your social media presence.
Telling stories and building a brand narrative
So how do we get around this? How do we ensure people not only see our posts but also engage with them? There’s no simple answer, but there are some basic principles to consider:
Firstly, organisations need to forget about numbers. Social media isn’t a Cold War arms race. Real value comes from building a community and engaging with it. And the best way to build long-term engagement is via worthwhile content. That means content that is
Organisation’s wishing to increase their engagement levels need to look beyond simply promoting their upcoming events and exhibitions, and create a broader dialogue based around their area of expertise. But here’s the good news – Museums and Art institutions are uniquely placed to offer the public exclusive content. By their very nature, they have access to material that is rare, historic, and important. But what they sometimes forget is that each artefact has its own story – and it’s often more interesting than the actual item on display.
Social Media is the perfect medium to explore these stories and provide a narrative that goes beyond exhibitions and events, and builds much more interesting, much broader conversations with your followers.
The Facebook content feedback loop
Okay, here’s where it gets interesting. Great content and insightful narrative can actually take on a momentum of its own and significantly boost engagement rates. Facebook uses complicated algorithms to determine which posts ended up on your wall. The sheer volume of content getting uploaded means it has to somehow be ‘curated’, and only a tiny percentage of an organisation’s followers will see a typical post. So what Facebook does it is it ‘farms out’ posts to a small percentage of an organisation’s followers to see how they respond. This can be as low as 2-3%. If they click on it, like it, etc., Facebook assumes the content is worthwhile and sends it out to a broader circle of users.
Now obviously the more people see something on their Facebook wall, the more likely they are to click on it. And so this creates a self-perpetuating circle of engagement, where Facebook will promote posts to a much larger group of followers, they’ll see it pop up on their wall, and if they engage with it Facebook will boast it even further.
Three simple rules
Even if your content is great, it’s worth being aware of certain technical aspects when it comes to Facebook and engagement rates.
- Images get far more likes and comments than any other kind of content
- Different days of the week have varying levels of engagement – Thursdays and Fridays are the most popular
- Since Facebook engagement is reliant on LIKES, COMMENTS, SHARES and CLICKS, you should try and create posts that encourage these actions. As a very basic example, end your posts with questions, ask for feedback, try and create dialogue with your followers.
Of course all this talk of engagement glosses over Facebook’s dwindling organic reach (the percentage of followers that see a post without you having to pay money to ensure your followers see it). That’s a whole other topic. But it doesn’t change the fact that great content is still at the heart of effective social media. Or to summarise – great content creates engagement. But engagement rates will help you better understand what great content actually means.