There seems to be a lot of confusion over engagement rates. In the simplest possible terms, an engagement rate is a measure of how many people are engaging vs the number of people who actually could be engaging. Due to the nature of the different platforms there are likely to be different rates for Facebook vs Twitter etc., but a good rule of thumb is to divide the number of interactions with your base. It isn’t rocket science. However, looking across the barren landscape of brand social media pages, achieving and maintaining high engagement levels does seem to be. So what’s going wrong? Broadly speaking there are six reasons why your engagement rate is low…
Your content is crap
Let’s face it; creating content that is funny, likable, shareable is actually quite hard for most brands. Historically all they’ve had to worry about is a few big campaigns a year that they get months to prepare for. Now they’re expected to churn out post after post of high quality, engaging content
You’re not segmenting
Your audience is made up of lots of different types of people. Sure they will have certain things in common, but they will also have wildly varying passions and interests. What one may love reading about, another might hate. You need to do work to understand what is most engaging to the different groups in your audience, and work out a way to get it to them. Whether that means posting at different times, or putting different content on different platforms. A good example is location dependent content. Do your fans care about the event you are hosting in a city miles away from where they live? Where appropriate and possible you should geolocate content like this. If you can’t target these groups independently you need to work out whether your niche content is going to get poor levels of engagement from your broad audience, or worse, alienate them.
Your timing is wrong
Agencies and brands are businesses. Businesses tend to think between 9 and 5. This leads to a very limited view of when to post content, people use of social networking isn’t constrained by working hours, so neither should a brand’s. I remember once being told that the best time to post for a particular brand I was working on was just after 9am. Turns out that we only ever posted at around 9am, around noon, and just before 5, and 9am was the best performing time of the three. We’d never considered posting before 9am, or after 5pm, so we had no idea if they’d be good times. The minute we started exploring different times our engagement rates started to improve. That said, I’m not going to tell you that the best of day to post is Thursday at 6pm, because that’s nonsense. Ignore the plethora of studies that come out and tell you the best times to post based on averages from a number of brands. Find out for yourself when the best time to post your content. Test, learn, fail and adapt.
You’re asking too much (or offering too little)
A lot of brands are still in the big campaign mind-set, believing they have to do big, expensive, media driven campaigns. Share your brand experience in 500 words or more. Upload your video to our Facebook page. Download our latest app. Asking people to do anything is always going to be tricky. Most people are lazy, especially if there’s nothing in it for them. You want them to put in time and effort? You’d best be offering them an incentive.
You’re attracting the wrong kind of fans
In the mad rush to acquire fans, many brands, often led by their media agencies, have run like ads, run promotions, offered freebies. And it’s works. The problem is, the people that have now liked the page have done so not because they like your brand, but because they want a prize or a discount. They don’t want you to deliver on brand messaging; they want your free stuff. And if there’s nothing in it for them, they won’t be liking any content, or adding their comments, they’ll just be ignoring you
You’ve got too much reach
Generally speaking the more people that see a piece of content, the less likely any one of them is to engage with that piece of content. Imagine you have a core group of fans that always interact with your content, a group of 10,000. If your total fan reach is 100,000 then your engagement rate is 10%. But say you want to get more reach and choose to spend money on paid media to push your content further. Your core group will see the content, but the likelihood that the people who don’t belong to this core group are going to be as engaged is much lower, and the more reach you have, the less likely they are to be engaged.
Your brand / product isn’t ‘engaging’
It’s a hard thing to come to terms with, but not all brands are actually that engaging, certainly not from a social point of view. In fact, most aren’t. Does anyone really want to have a conversation with bleach on Facebook? But, at the end of the day, does it really matter. Long before Facebook and Twitter came along we had advertising, advertising that people couldn’t interact with, couldn’t go online to comment on. But it was still ‘engaging’ – even if it didn’t have a call to action to follow on Facebook. And you know what, it sold a lot of product. It worked because it raised awareness and got the brand front of mind. And for a lot of brands that’s all you need. You don’t need the likes, the comments, the web 2.0 definition of engagement. You need a message that reaches engages people, whether they click a button to tell you they were engaged or not. Because that’s what sells product. That’s advertising.
Now that’s not to say that engagement rates aren’t important. In fact, from a platform perspective they are very important, especially with the likes of Facebook where how engaging you are has a massive impact on your reach. Interactions with the page is a strong component in edge rank, the algorithm that determines who and how many people will see your brand’s content.
That said, chasing engagement rates alone is a very dangerous idea. Especially when you consider that most social media is (or really should be) supported with paid media spend. By nature of the calculation, having a low engagement rate could simply mean you’re reaching an awful lot of people with your message…