Love beyond likes: Why brands should focus on customer engagement not vanity metrics

Experts say having high user count is no longer a criterion of success as social media marketing has evolved from vanity metrics such as followers, shares & likes to branding, lead generation & e-comm

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Mar 23, 2021 9:27 AM
social media

The power of social media is commendable and there is no denying the fact that having an online presence is absolutely imperative for any brand today. Having a social media presence helps brands reach out to their consumers better and add new ones. But when it comes to social media marketing, will just focussing on increasing likes and followers increase sales? Not really, say experts.

Brands these days need to focus on customer engagement rather than just focusing on increasing likes and followers if they want their social media marketing strategy to succeed. Having a high user count on social media is no longer a metric of success. Today social media marketing has evolved from 'vanity metrics' like impressions, likes, shares, comments, followers to branding, lead generation, customer retention, and e-commerce.

Aarushi Sethi, Director at Pollen, a full-service influencer marketing ecosystem under the Zoo Media Network, asserts that the number of followers on their social media pages is a vanity metric that does not guarantee engagement.

"Social platforms have evolved to offer newer formats like IG Reels, Explore, IGTV, etc. The algorithms for these formats are designed in a manner that accounts with lesser followers can also have a million views on their posts as long as it is engaging. Essentially, it means that a user does not need to necessarily follow your brand page to engage with your post. Videos that are created on reels may sometimes get more than 4x the views as compared to the followers on that account!”

“Your potential audience is not equal to your number of followers and your brand page is not the only way to reach your audience. Therefore, there has to be a shift in the communication narrative to create an impact. In order to build relevance and ensure engagement, brands need to adapt to the platform trends and design content that resonates with the targeted audience," explains Sethi.

Vavo Digital CEO and Founder Neha Puri says brands need to realise the difference between social media marketing and content marketing. "Social media marketing is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies to build a relation and engage with the target audience. It's very important to look at your social media handles and conversations more from what the customer wants to see, rather than make the page seem like one of corporate propaganda where a brand is only speaking about themselves, which kind of makes the whole conversation more like content marketing."

She further states that a lot of brands post content bought from social media influencers on their main handles, thereby building relatability, credibility and also giving their page a more human touch. "I think this is the first step to building engagement on social media when you are speaking of the brand but in a more subtle way."

According to Puri, the ever-changing algorithms of the social media platforms play a critical role in a brand's social media strategy and make it engaging enough. "Instagram recently released their own format of reels, thereby giving more exposure to that sort of content. Brands need to be able to quickly capitalise on these changes of algorithms to still keep the page engaging enough."

Grapes Digital National Business Head Rajeesh Rajagopalan notes that the concept of buying followers was relevant when social media platforms were just beginning. "Till that time, organic reach used to be high, and if you had 1 million followers on Facebook your organic reach used to be 50-70%. Over a period of time, when Facebook started monetising, the organic reach has fallen down to 0.1% or even lesser depending on the kind of brand you are and the kind of content."

He further says that the algorithm of social media platforms has reduced the organic reach of content to their followers as they want brands to spend more on advertising. "For brands, chasing the number of followers doesn't even make sense. Ultimately, it comes down to-- if I have put a creative, the metric itself should not be how many followers I have, the metric should be how much engagement my content is generating," Rajagopalan says.

According to him, any brand that is serious about digital and wants to get the maximum ROI will chase engagement as a metric. That said, he pointed out that having a large reach on social media is also important. "There is no point in creating content and then not promoting it. For content or creative to go viral, it has to reach a critical mass."

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