Savvy brands know social engagement isn't a useful success metric. But few realize engagement can mean their social efforts have failed. Celebrating social engagement can actually hurt your brand.
If you think engagement data represents positive user interactions, think again. Neither social networks nor tech vendors remove negative interactions from reported engagement rates. In fact:
- Negative reactions count as engagement. Facebook reports all interactions as engagement, regardless of whether users like your post or say they're angry or sad. And when Verizon's net neutrality YouTube video generated 15% engagement, the company reported "a good deal of positive feedback." The reality: 99.5% of user interactions were dislikes.
- Negative comments count as engagement. Recently United Airline claimed the week's most engaging Facebook post. What earned the honor? The company's limp half-apology for violently dragging a passenger off a plane. The post generated tens of thousands of negative comments, including customers who reported canceling United tickets and credit cards.
- Customer service complaints count as engagement. Insurer USAA boasts one of the highest engagement rates in its industry. But 10 out of USAA's last 25 tweets feature replies from customers seeking satisfaction: "I've been on hold for 2 hours"; "Stop ignoring my claims"; "I thought I was a valued customer"; even "I hate you more than ISIS."
You already know negative interactions happen in social. But you probably don't realize you're counting negative engagement as success.
Engagement rate is not a harmless vanity metric. It's not "better than nothing" when you can't measure brand impact or sales. If you report engagement, you're often reporting failure as success. You're celebrating unhappy customers as happy ones.
It's time to move beyond engagement. Not tomorrow, today.