Social media engagement doesn’t matter as much as you think.
Or, I should say, we don’t really know how much social media engagement matters. The reason every marketing conference for the last eight years has featured a breakout session called “What is the value of a like?” is because no one knows. There is no reliable way to put a dollar value on social engagement.
Established metrics matter more.
As a marketer, you can spend your budget on two types of social media results:
1. Social specific results, or social media engagement – likes, comments, and shares. These are the things that make social different from other marketing channels.
2. Non-social specific results include impressions, reach, views, clicks, leads, purchases – things you can get from many digital marketing channels.
Non-social specific results are the driving force behind the rise of social media as a viable marketing channel. Unlike social media engagement, they are comparable to other digital channels and as a result, your CMO knows what they’re worth.
It’s the reason Facebook doesn’t talk about “community building” anymore and is focused on things like native lead gen cards, app installs, and selling GRPs. Just look at the current ad-buying options on Facebook/Instagram – the only social specific item on the menu is “Engagement”.
You should build your paid social strategy on a foundation of non-social specific metrics. If your social isn’t contributing to your business in tangible, easy to measure, widely understood ways, then you can’t afford to spend money on social-only metrics.
This doesn’t mean that social specific metrics are useless.
They should be used to put your paid results into context or add additional insight. They help you understand the impact of your content. For publishers, they mean even more and can even inform future editorial decisions.
And I’d like to reiterate that this way of thinking applies to paid social media only. Organic is still relevant for some segments (like the aforementioned publishers). Social-only metrics should take a primary role in organic because non-social specific metrics are rarely scalable without paid support.