Why Interaction Is Not The Same As Engagement
If there’s one thing that the social media sector has in spades, it’s statistics. We’ve all seen the videos, most, it seems, with a Fatboy Slim soundtrack, that list the mind-bending figures about the continued growth of social platforms and devices.
- Facebook has over 750 million active monthly users
- Those users share over 4 billion pieces of content a day
- More than 24 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every day
- Someone joins LinkedIn every second
- If Wikipedia were a book, it would be over 2 million pages long*
It’s not just numbers, many of those writing about social media love to claim that it’s responsible for creating, or at least setting the news. Whether it’s the tragic death of a troubled, but hugely talented singer, an horrific massacre or even a revolution, these days, it seems that nothing happens that can’t be pinned to interactions on Facebook or Twitter.
But are these relatively new channels actually shaping these events, or merely channelling them? And what does this mean for brands?
To try to understand the true impact of social, let’s take a look at a rather wonderful project that’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, which is itself one of many poster children for the radical effect of the social web.
110 Stories is the name of an, as yet unbuilt, app that will commemorate the events of 911. In the words of the creator:
Activate the app on your iPhone and you’ll be guided towards the World Trade Center. Once properly oriented, augmented reality kicks in and renders their silhouette — in a pencil-like outline during the day and in shimmering light at night. Snap a picture, fine tune the image, add a personal story, and submit it to www.110stories.com.
Looking at the stats on the Facebook plug-in that is built-in to Kickstarter, nearly 1,200 people have liked 110 Stories. Which should mean, it would be reasonable to think, that it would be well on its way to meeting its target of raising $25,000.
And it is – as of July 29th, it had raised nearly $20,000. But that money had come from just 305 backers**. So, whilst, at first glance, the interaction rate with the project seems great, the number of people who actually engaged to the point that they were willing to part with cash, is really rather low.
So what can brands, and anyone involved in social take from this?
The most important thing to understand is that you should never mistake numbers for insight – as the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Just because your brand has thousands of fans, that doesn’t mean that thousands of new customers will start buying your products.
Rather than obsess on the size of their fan-bases, it’s essential that brands map how those fans are truly engaging with the brand, and track how that engagement relates to sales.
Many people in the online world like to claim that TV is dead, and scoff at the suggestion that TV is a well researched medium with the power to drive real action. Yet, as the CMO of any major FMCG company will tell you, when ads go on air, product flies off the shelves. And there’s over half a century’s worth of data to back this up.
If social networks, particularly Facebook, hope to prove that interaction and engagement have a true value, it’s essential that they start turning stats and data into insights and proof.
The BrandLift product is certainly a large step in the right direction, and it is to be hoped that this will soon be rolled into Nielsen’s wider product portfolio, particularly their consumer panels, which track actual retail purchases.
There has undoubtedly been an improvement in the types of things that companies and agencies running social media campaigns are using as success metrics, but there’s still a lot more that can be done. Because as long as people are being bombarded with impressive, but meaningless stats, such as the fact that Facebook would be the 3rd biggest country in the world, it won’t matter a jot if we can’t prove that any of those inhabitants buy our clients’ products.
*So almost as long as a George R. Martin novel then.
**I am the 305th – I didn’t think it would be fair to criticise lack of engagement if I wasn’t engaged myself.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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