Social truth: engagement is not everything

Let’s be clear: Metrics are important. Very important. We geek out over data, too. But we’re just as driven by our clients’ specific objectives, and those are much more than seeing “likes” increase. Consider these takeaways when optimizing your social strategy:

Keep a clear focus on your goals.

A pretty fall photo of campus gets hundreds likes on your social platforms. But does it advance the position of your university in the eyes of your closest fans? If your objective is to change the perception of your instutution in a specific area, the true measures of success are high-quality messaging (does the content tell the story you want the audience to know about your school?), alignment, and consistency—which should be followed up by audience perception surveys, of course. The true focus for this (hypothetical) objective is to be seen as a leader in the field that understands what matters and can help advance the conversation. Likes, comments, and shares (and any other form of “engagement”) won’t measure that for you or help you reach your goals.

Reward the user’s curiosity.

Borrowing from other industries, if you’re trying to generate leads—admissions or donations—don’t focus on witty copy that will receive laughing emojis. Instead, why not use the platform’s native advertising program? Then direct users to a dedicated landing page specifically curated to foster relationships with high-quality leads. We’re all creatures of exploration, so allow users to dive into a compelling experience that rewards their investment and curiosity.

Be authentic.

There are a few go-to tactics for generating “engagement”: clever puns, colorful landscapes, funny GIFs and memes, giveaways, and of course, dogs. Despite the many likes and shares they receive, these tactics are shallow and gimmicky. Authenticity is where all brands should start and end their social strategies. Does your clever pun fit with your brand personality or the way you want to be perceived? If not, don’t do it. By applying this authenticity filter to your communications, you’re more likely to stay consistent—and to truly connect with users and customers, which will help them become loyal brand champions.

These are just three examples of how traditional engagement metrics shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all for measuring the success of a social strategy. And there are a million more ways to achieve success through a socially integrated campaign. For more, check out our social media best practices, or see our recent article for some tips on nailing social content in higher ed.