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Social Followers vs. Engagement – Which is Better?

Thursday, May 15th, 2014.

When determining whether a social campaign was successful – do you look at the number of followers or the number of likes, comments and shares? There are many variables when it comes to defining “success,” but many brands want to know the answer to one simple question: “Is it more important to have a high follower count or more engagement on social media?”

The Answer

It’s tricky. Both follower count and engagement are important, but in the end social engagement takes the cake. Engagement is what brings the customers in and then keeps them coming back. It’s what makes them feel connected to your brand.

Nordstrom does a great job at this – when a fan tweets @Nordstrom on Twitter, they respond! They ask questions that get people talking, which makes people feel like they “know the brand.”

On the other hand, your brand could ask the same great questions and provide compelling content – but if you have no followers, there won’t be anyone there to read and respond to it. Many people will only like or follow a brand on social media because they saw that a friend liked it or because it was suggested to them. After that initial contact, though, they are not likely to read many of a brand’s posts or engage with updates.

While having those followers is nice, they aren’t worth much to your brand if they’re not engaging.

What You Should Really Be Focusing On

The real number you want to focus on is how many engaged followers you have. On a day-to-day basis, how many customers are commenting, liking and sharing your posts? This is the number you want to improve.

Use achievable goals to ensure that this number keeps growing. If you currently have an average of 1,000 engaged customers per day, aim for 1,100. Of course, as your engagement increases, your follow count will naturally increase as well. In the end, follower count is still important, but it should not take precedence over engagement. If no one engages with a post it generally carries less weight on social networks.

Twitter, for example, now highlights your top posts (most RTs, comments, favorites, etc.) by making them larger and easier to see. Facebook makes it even harder for brands, initial organic reach is quite low for business pages (usually between 2% and 6%). That number only grows if people engage with your content.

If I am constantly “liking” and sharing updates from Target, then I will see more of their content in my news feed. If you’re not getting any engagement, your numbers will stay at the minimum and the post will reach fewer people.

So, how do you foster better engagement? Post interesting, relevant, and engaging content that your audience will want to read. Take your time considering which content people will engage with, and spend time responding back. Use a variety of tactics and media—ask questions, give pointers, promote special deals, and create value for your followers.

All these things will not only increase engagement, but will also create more loyal customers for your brand—and that’s worth far more than a few extra followers.