The whole idea of social media is based on interaction: the success of any information posted there is measured by the number and polarity of reactions it gets from the users - friends, subscribers, followers or however else they are called. The same is true for the advertising placed in social media: the more people interact with it, the better.
Definition of Engagement
“Engagements” is a broad term that encompasses all kinds of interactions with content and typically includes views, clicks, likes, shares, reposts and other actions that users take to express their interest and attitude.
IAB defines Engagement as “a spectrum of consumer advertising activities and experiences - cognitive, emotional, and physical - that will have a positive impact on a Brand”.
What exactly is counted as engagements depends on specific social media but each of them provides the relevant metric in campaign reports. Some engagements are universal, such as “Likes” or “Comments”, while others are only available in one specific social network, such as “Get directions” in Instagram. Let’s take a look at the most common types of engagements.
Of course, the ultimate measure of success in commerce is sales - or conversions in the digital world. Engagements can be regarded as preliminary steps in the funnel that can eventually lead to conversion. Actions measured by social networks mean that the user has a certain interest in the matter and can be selected for more targeted measures to stimulate conversion.
Engagements and derivative KPIs help advertisers assess the quality of their content based on the quantitative (how many people reacted to the post) and qualitative (what was the polarity of their reaction) data and then take the necessary steps to adjust their advertising strategy and tactics in order to cause more positive / avoid negative reactions as well as enhance the impact of the campaign.
Comparing the number of impressions to the number of engagements, marketers can develop their hypotheses, for example:
Your post has a high number of impressions but engagements are relatively low. This most likely means your content is not interesting enough or you chose a wrong target audience for it.
Your engagement metrics are high but conversions are low. This situation can also have different reasons, but in general it means the content of your campaign is not well aligned with your value proposition and your marketing mix needs to be adjusted in order to meet the expectations of your target audience.
In addition to count metrics representing the absolute number of specific engagement types and all engagements in general, advertisers actively use such metrics as “Engagement Rate” and “Cost per Engagement”:
Engagement Rate = Number of Engagements / Number of Impressions
Cost per Engagement = Total Spend / Number of Engagements
These metrics can be calculated at the ad, ad group or campaign level.
As you can see, these two KPIs are inversely related: if your campaign costs are at the average market level, a low Engagement Rate will most likely lead to high Costs per Engagement, and vice versa.
There are also a few variations of Engagements metrics that you might find useful in your specific circumstances:
Engagement Rate = Total Engagements / Total Reach
Since the basic Engagement Rate formula based on impressions doesn’t take frequency into account, this metric is a bit more accurate in telling us what share of the audience who saw the ad or post actively reacted to it. The problem is that reach data are not always available or accurate and that multiple engagements are counted individually even if several of them come from the same user.
Engagement Rate = Total Engagements / Total Followers (OR Subscribers)
In some contexts, advertisers are only interested in how their followers react and the rest of the audience is not important.
Engagement Rate = Engagements per day / Daily impressions (OR Daily Reach OR Current Followers)
Standard Engagement Rate calculated and tracked on a daily basis to follow the dynamics of a campaign. In some cases it’s important to track how this metric evolves over time as a campaign is running.
Engagement Rate = Total Engagements / Total Views
This metric is relevant for video posts or ads. The disadvantage is that the same user may view the video several times and that cannot be taken into account.
In some situations different kinds of engagements are not equally important to the advertiser. For example, imagine there is a specific campaign whereby likes and comments are of no importance and the advertiser is focused on video views and click-throughs alone. As a solution, when calculating the engagement rate, each kind of interaction can be given a weight as a coefficient to be multiplied by the number of engagements of the corresponding kind. This approach is not so widespread but might be helpful in some cases when only specific types of engagements do matter, but it’s obviously more difficult to calculate and the weights might also need to be reviewed and adjusted with time.
Engagements data can also be used to build customer profiles and potentially, to predict their behavior. If you have access to the information about what people like or dislike, how they comment on things, what they share with others and how that correlates with their buying behavior, you could possibly improve the performance of your campaigns tremendously. However, the use of such information is limited by laws protecting personal data. Moreover, you need technical capabilities to gather, process and analyse your user profiles. Another question is how to do it at scale when you have thousands or even millions of people in your audience. But if you have an opportunity to gather first-party data - certainly upon the users’ consent - it can be a powerful tool in getting to know your audience better and eventually driving more targeted and more efficient campaigns.
Advertisers say, the average Engagement Rate range is 1-5%. According to the report published by Social Insider in January 2021, Instagram has an average rate of 1.16% for brand-related posts. Facebook has a broader spread of engagement rates with a median at 0.27%. On Twitter, the average engagement rate of brand posts is as low as 0.07%.
Improved Engagement Rates normally translate into improved Conversions, therefore advertisers are keen on provoking as many positive reactions as possible from their audience. How can this be achieved? Of course, every social media has its own unique features - and therefore, unique tips on how to increase Engagements. However, there are a few general guidelines to follow: