Does Engagement Matter More Than Followers?

Pied_Piper2For social media success, what is more important: engagement or followers?

This question came up recently during a strategic planning session when an organization talked about how the number of Facebook followers surged after a recent contest.

While having more followers looks impressive, the digital marketing team was asking what it really meant. Does having more followers mean their social media efforts are more successful, or does it give them more opportunities to be successful.

It’s a quality versus quantity proposition.

Personally, engagement strikes me as a more important consideration, although size does matter. A vibrant and active community can provide brands and organization with a powerful platform to drive strategic and tactical initiatives.

A large community, however, that is inactive or not terribly engaged delivers far less value.

In an ideal world, it would be great to have engagement and big numbers but this is probably a luxury that few brands get to enjoy.

In a recent blog post in Marketing Magazine (U.K.), Matthew Burns talked about how brands such as Coca-Cola and Red Bull are taking a close look at the effectiveness of Facebook as an engagement platform.

“The brands that are huge on the social site are the ones that were fastest to appreciate Facebook’s strengths, but are now also first to be wary of its limitations: why pay Facebook to reach and engage fans if we can achieve similar objectives, mostly for free, on other networks?”

Burns discovered, for example, that Red Bull’s main Facebook page has 44 million fans but it generated only 330,000 interactions in July. This is less than one monthly interaction for every 100 fans.

As brands look to drive more engagement to extract value from their social media activity, Burns suggests brands will start to explore other platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.

The focus on quality versus quality reflects the fluid and dynamic of social media. As brands looking to drive return on investment, they are constantly tweaking the dials and looking for competitive advantages.

The interest in engagement suggests there may be too much of an investment happening to build bigger and bigger audiences. It could be that some brands will start to redeploy their social media efforts to get more people actively involved.

If engagement gains more momentum as a social media “must-have”, it could do two things: force existing players such as Facebook to adopt, or open the door for new engagement-friendly players to seize a golden opportunity.

What do you think? Is social engagement gaining more momentum?