Using social media to promote, advertise and engage customers is vital for online businesses. People are now using social media platforms to communicate directly with brands—whether that’s saying how awesome they are or complaining about a service or product.

Online businesses now have staff dedicated to keeping social media accounts up to date and active, because nothing highlights a bad brand like an inactive social media account.
So while businesses are putting all this time and money into social media marketing and activities, how do they know if the company is actually benefiting? How can you measure customer engagement?

Engagement comes in different forms

In terms of social media, engagement is how much people interact with what you post on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
The first thing businesses need to recognize is that engagement comes in different forms. Consulting and software development company Moz defines types of engagement by categorizing different types of engagement rates:

Amplification rate: How much something is shared. This broadens the audience of your post. Some argue that this form of engagement is actually much more important as it grows your audience, thus leading to wider knowledge of your businesses and a better chance of increasing sales.

Conversation rate: This is simply the amount of comments on you get on each post.

Applause rate: This is something that can be done quickly and easily by followers such as a ‘like’ on Facebook, or ‘favourite’ on Instagram—something which gives a post an upvote.

Relative engagement rate: This is where you can compare the metrics across all social media accounts. By comparing the different engagement rates on each social network, you can identify which ones need improvement.

When looking at any form of engagement, you need to think less about numbers and more about actual people and percentages.

For example, if your Twitter account has 50,000 followers, this could be seen as a great mark of social media engagement; however, of those 50,000 followers, how many retweets, shares and likes do you get? If it’s only 50 per post, that’s 0.1% of people responding to you. However, if you only have 5000 followers but 50 people are engaging, that’s a much better percentage of engagement.

You don’t necessarily want a large following; you want the right kind of following. These are people who are interested in your product and will engage.

The final piece of engagement which is particularly important to note is the click-through rate. If you share a blog post or a new product, how many clicks do you get from your social media platforms? Engagement on your social media account might be great, but is the relationship going further? Some people may just like to interact on social media without going to web content or products.

Social engagement metrics and analytics

One of the simplest methods to see if your social media channels are really engaging customers is to use engagement metrics provided by networks themselves. Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics both provide useful statistics. These are targeted to help you increase your engagement by showing the common characteristics of your audience and providing data around your best-performing content types and posting times.

Third-party tools can also provide you with useful data. Social media scheduling apps, such as Buffer, show you the days and times that your posts are getting the best response from your followers. Using this information, you can automatically schedule future posts to publish at these times, ensuring maximum visibility.

Of course, everyone wants to see their audience and engagement statistics increase. By using tools such as these, over time you’ll find your audience’s sweet spot, combining a message that engages them in a format they respond well to, seen at the times they are most active.

If you’re using social media well, running competitions and offers via your channels should be embedded into your strategy, as well as posting blogs or sharing photos or information. If you launch a new product and talk about it on social media, it’s important to monitor the success of that. How much engagement did you get? Did it have a knock-on effect on your website? Does it vary on each social media account?

Setting up dedicated landing pages for your social media contests or promotions can help you track the performance of these. By having a specific landing page for these visitors, it allows you to clearly track the performance of each social post or ad, refining and improving over time.

Creating a social media strategy from analyzing engagement

After looking at your metrics, the key is then to use it to guide your social media strategy.

It’s important to check in and measure your social media engagement because, from this, you can set goals and create a new social media strategy, measuring engagement from quarter to quarter.

Gathering all this information is important when reporting back to the rest of the company about how social media is working to engage customers. Many businesses will want to know if social media engagement is having a direct knock-on effect to sales. This can be difficult to measure, but tracking your social media engagement can have multiple benefits to the company, which in turn will affect sales.

Buffer explains that social media is an easy way to get customer feedback. This is a quick and efficient way to deal with any issues, as well as a great way to ask what customers would think of new products.

A lot can be said for maintaining relationships with customers via social media. Engaging with them and being friendly can do a lot for keeping dedicated customers.

What can businesses do next?

Every business currently succeeding on social media will need to continue to adapt to continue growing. Meanwhile, companies new to this form of engagement will need to experiment to find an approach that works with their audience. Both types will be guided by analytics, monitoring their engagement and, most importantly, their business results. One thing is for certain, though: how consumers engage with us has changed forever.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Direct Marketing. 

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Tim Cameron-Kitchen

Tim Cameron-Kitchen founded Nottingham-based e-commerce marketing agency Exposure Ninja. Tim and his 60-strong team offer a range of online marketing services for clients, including creating social media strategies to create maximum engagement with customers.

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