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Are impressions the new engagements in social media marketing?


I had an interesting conversation with a friend last week about social media engagement. Her theory: Impressions are highly under-valued in the social media marketing world, whereas she believed there was far too much focus on engagement.

Essentially impressions > engagement in social media marketing.

Whoa. Is your mind blown?

Mine kinda was, for a minute. But, then I started thinking. Maybe she’s right.

Let’s consider some key facts.

#1 – Lurkers are an increasingly growing segment. I haven’t seen any stats to back this theory up recently, but I have a feeling the number of “lurkers” is growing while the number of “engagers” is slowly fading. Again, just a feeling, but it syncs up with the way people use social in 2021. People are “engaging”–but they’re doing it privately with friends and colleagues via text and private communities. Meanwhile, public-facing engagement levels are down somewhat. And, I bet that trend continues.

#2 – Many new social media platforms and functionalities are predicated on reach vs. engagement. Think Stories. Or, really, even Twitter these days. Not much meaningful engagement going on there these days, is there? But, that doesn’t mean your customers aren’t seeing and consuming your content. They may be! But, you don’t know unless you’re tracking those impressions!

#3 – Current engagement is HEAVILY predicated on the “like.” I’ve done a number of audits for bigger companies in 2020 and 2021. And in all of them, their engagement scores were very heavily influenced by the “like.” Brand are seeing fewer comments, and many more likes. And, as we know, the like is, by far, the most passive form of social media engagement. In fact, when I create weighted scoring systems for clients, we score it this way: Share-10 points, Comment-5 points, Like-1 point. Now, you tell me: How important is that like again?

So, this is all fairly interesting, right? I’m not saying engagement is dead. Not by a long shot. But, maybe we have been over-valuing engagement the last number of years. Not to mention, it kinda feels like engagement levels across social might plummet this summer as we ease away from the pandemic in the U.S. That’s just a guess, but I see a lot of people pulling away from social and re-engaging with actual humans face-to-face the next few months vs. gazing at their phones.

What does this mean for you as a social media marketer?

A few things come to mind:

#1 – Re-evaluate your social media metrics. Maybe impressions should be higher on your list. In fact, some people may not be tracking them at all in 2021. Maybe it’s time to get back to that.

#2 – Consider adopting a content scoring system, like the one I mentioned above. If nothing else, it will probably highlight for you how heavily predicated your content is on “likes” and how soft you really are on comments and shares. That alone might shift your thinking when it comes to impressions vs. engagements.

#3 – Consider experimenting with functionalities or tools where impressions are the focus. Like I said above, don’t avoid Stories just because they don’t have robust engagement metrics. There’s a lot to be said for the simple fact that your customers saw your Story and consumed it (without engaging).



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