Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Users: Engage!

What I'm hearing from the social media experts is that page likes and follows are shallow metrics.

This isn't news, especially since it's built right into Facebook's EdgeRank algorithms: a page like has less 'rank' than multiple post likes (at some point), and a share is worth more than a comment is worth more than a like.

Which ups the strategery, makes it all about the 'engagement.' Are they commenting? Sharing? That's Edge Juice. Digital capital.

If folks engage, they are more likely to see my future content, and that's a win for me and my brand.

It does not help the rank of my future posts if I share stuff no one wants to talk about.

Knowing this, I'm sure I'm not the only one to push things out into the virtual world hungry for that validation.


So what if it doesn't happen? Recently, hearing the crickets, I did a slapdash piece of market research. Having posted about once a day for a week regarding goings-on in Turkey (which feels REALLY IMPORTANT to me by the way) I decided to count up those posts (7 of them) and see how many likes and comments there actually were.

I then compared that to the last 7 posts I've made about anything else. The mix of text, image and video was about consistent.

I said slapdash, guys, this isn't real science. Just a quick pulse check.

Out of 7 posts, I had 28 likes and 9 comments. (I'm not a super popular guy.)
Out of 7 Turkey-related posts, 3 likes and 2 comments.

Getting say ~15% my 'normal' engagement on the Turkey posts than the rest?

The hot cakes really aren't moving.

How to interpret this? I could get judgey and decide that everyone's so jaded and uninformed. Why else don't they care? (Easy to feel this way. Why should kitty photos trend more than revolution?)

But I take this "data" with a grain of salt. All I know is that the topic of Turkey is getting poor user engagement among my Facebook audience. Without access to more complicated analytics, I couldn't even tell you who's clicking through this stuff.

It has me wondering: are there times when user engagement is a bad metric to rely on? What if some topics get seen, even clicked -- but not liked or commented on? Does that always mean I should post something else? That I made a mistake? Do I just need to position the content differently? Try a different platform? Seek a different audience?

Does the user engagement metric drive us to preach to the choir? There is always the case of strong disagreement (flaming and haterade are still user engagement, I guess), which suggests at best that digital discourse is likely to polarize.

Probably yes, some of those things. But also I think maybe user engagement isn't always everything. Some things we need to see even if we're not ready to talk about them. How do we measure that?


Darnell said...

While strong disagreement and flaming are still positive user engagement in terms of comment count, there are actually negative metrics that can have an adverse effect on your Edgerank. Hiding a post, unsubscribing from a feed, reporting spam are the negative equivalents, more or less, to likes, shares and comments.

The value of immediate user engagement is an interesting area to explore. There is an issue of what your audience is currently viewing your page for vs. what topic you are currently addressing. If I'm browsing by the Dunkin Donuts page and they are advocating a frank and open discussion of violence in video games, I am likely to either not react at all or react negatively.

This is a topic I am interested in, so why a lack of reaction? For one, that isn't the mindset I'm in when I'm browsing their page, or the context I've come to expect. I am here to learn about deals on donuts, bitches!

Secondly, because this is a jump away from their normal content (donuts, the dunkin thereof), they have done nothing to position themselves as either experts in video game violence, or establish a knowledgable audience to engage in discussion with.

Now, if I come to Dunkin the next week and I see that they have continued to push this topic, maybe gotten Mike and Jerry from Penny Arcade to contribute as subject experts, maybe I'll start having more interest because they've put in the work to start building towards a new focus on their page.

Either way though, those initial posts are going to have low user engagement, which you may have to accept as a startup cost when you're building what is essentially a "new" audience from scratch.

Robin said...

Maybe it's just me, but i just feel like it's weird to "like" the Turkey posts because the situation is so complex and scary and awful that even if I agree with the post or the article I am not going to click "like." It just doesn't seem like the right response. And I probably wouldn't sum up my thoughts on it in a facebook comment. So maybe it's your venue? That might just reflect how I use facebook though. I will "like" the shit out of a picture of a cute puppy. Anyway, not totally sure what my point is - I do think your posts on Turkey are worth reading. I wonder if you are looking to start a dialogue if you should try another form of social media? Or maybe ask questions in your posts so people feel more compelled to comment? Like you ended your post with, "Some things we need to see even if we're not ready to talk about them" - I think that's a large part of the situation here.

Scott Murray said...

"Start-up cost" is a great idea to consider in terms of low user engagement. Especially if, say, you had to explain to your manager why your posts aren't "doing well" by this standard metric while arguing that they still have value.

It's called SOCIAL media for a reason after all. You need to build relationships, develop trust. That takes time.

Yesterday I had 13 followers on Twitter (@bluekitsunebi). Today I have 14. So that's progress, I guess.

Thanks for engaging!

Scott Murray said...

Robin: Exactly. The questions I've asked myself after my "market research" are the same ones you are asking.

Is "like" an instinctive response to a video about police brutality? I wouldn't like that post. Though I do click "share" and it's VERY rare that anybody does that for my posts.

Does my sharing contribute to informing anybody about what's happening, even if they aren't engaging? If yes, then maybe low engagement here is ok.

If I want a conversation to happen, there's definitely some other things I could (and will) consider doing. Taking it to Twitter, for starters, because that's the better venue for joining larger conversations. Packaging the content differently, also, because meme-ifying some of this will make it more Facebook digestible.

Asking questions doesn't hurt either. Stats show that encouraging people to respond (saying "What do you think about this?" even) will increase responses.

It's definitely been a learning experience for me about a.) using data to adjust my strategy and b.) thinking deeper about how we measure success in the first place.

Robin said...

I DO think your sharing contributes to informing people. And that is awesome.

I have a twitter account but I've never used it. Perhaps you'll be the first person I follow. :)

It's kind of funny how we use Facebook to measure anything at all. But there's no denying that after I post something, if I don't get a notification that someone liked it or commented, i'm all WHY DOES EVERYONE HATE ME pretty much immediately