Social media has been a thing for over a decade, so why are we still bullshitting ourselves (and our clients) about engagement metrics?

The simple answer is that we’re either using metrics to justify the time/effort/budget we’re throwing at social or we’re being lazy. Look how great we’re doing; we got 100 views on our latest Instagram video. Go us. That’s money well spent. News flash: that’s bullshit.

All engagements are not equal

Many agencies like to bundle views, likes and comments to give an overall engagement metric. Sometimes this is because the software we’re using for our analysis does this for us and that’s a great timesaver. Other times, it’s just to puff up the numbers and make it look like it’s all been worthwhile. The truth of the matter is that it’s actually quite meaningless. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that make up these engagement scores:

Video views

If you’re throwing lots of budget at video and relishing those lovely views, I’m about to piss on your bonfire. Did you know that a video on Instagram or Facebook only needs to be watched for three seconds to count as a “view”? Congratulations, someone watched three seconds of your video. This metric is even more sketchy than viewing figures for traditional TV advertising. YouTube is a bit better at 30 seconds but it still ain’t great. It’s also worth bearing in mind that someone viewing your content does little to nothing for reach.


Surely we’re way past counting these as meaningful by now. Oh, you’re not. That’s a shame. Think about how you use that like button. How many things have you liked this week on Facebook or Instagram (or whatever platform)? More to the point, how many of those things can you remember? People don’t always Like things because they like them. Some folk will Like just about anything on their feed. Sometimes it’s purely tribal; my friend likes this so I must be seen to like it too. Likes will give you a bit of extra reach on some platforms (most notably Facebook) but not as much as a comment or a share.


Comments are useful for many reasons. If you’re getting plenty of comments, you’re doing something right (or wrong). If someone has taken the time to comment, you’re actually engaging them for real. Not only that but you can also get a lot of qualitative data from comments. Comments also increase reach because they can be seen in friends’ newsfeeds.


Shares are up there with comments. They can be a real indicator that someone wants to align themselves with your brand. Okay, so we know people sometimes share content without even looking at it, but it’s not all bad, they are still increasing your reach by doing so.

What you should be measuring

Going back to a point I made at the top of this post, if you’re measuring these things to justify your existence, you probably need to get out of the marketing business.

What you should be measuring should tie in with the wider business goals. If you’re selling something (you probably are), you should be measuring your impact on sales or at the very least, measuring leads generated by your content. Those are really meaningful engagements with a real value.

If you’re not selling anything or the thing you are selling can’t be linked (like real world stuff), ask questions in your posts or ask people to share. That’ll give you something meaningful to measure.

If you read this and found it useful, please give me something to measure by sharing it or letting me know in the comments. It’s only fair. ?

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