Engagement rate is among the essential social media metrics, more important than the absolute number of followers and fans or “likes” and shares.
Higher engagement rates indicate better content and produce greater reach (more people viewing the content). The metric is a valuable tool for comparing marketing campaigns against those of competitors.
Engagement rate is the number of “likes,” shares and comments divided by the number of audience members.
Origami Logic defines engagement rate as engagement volume divided by the base volume. There are multiple ways of calculating engagement rate, each with pros and cons:
- Followers. Engagement per follower or fan is easy to calculate, even for competitive properties for which reach information is unavailable. However, reach of a post can extend beyond the follower base if the post goes viral, at which point the calculation has little validity.
- Reach. Engagement per individual who potentially saw the post is effective for assessing post quality. However, this metric can provide a misleading view of performance, as it does not differentiate between posts that have similar engagement rates but varying reach.
- Impressions. Engagement per impression represents engagement per view. Because people typically don’t engage with the same post twice, engagement/reach is generally better for assessing post performance, excluding cases in which impression-level efficiency is needed (such as CPM-priced paid campaigns).
When calculating engagement rates, Origami Logic recommends separating organic and viral activity from paid activity. Combining paid activity with organic engagement can produce misleading results.
Digging deeper into engagement rates
Socialbakers, a social media analytics company, has long promoted engagement rate as a premier social media metric. Its study of 300,000 Facebook posts from over 2,700 businesses prompted Socialbakers to modify its recommendation. The study found that advertising on Facebook’s news feed has skewed engagement metrics as companies pay to increase their reach.
Interactions and reach correlate. Greater reach produces more interactions, and more interactions produce greater reach. Interactions increase impressions exponentially, with a huge jump in impressions as interactions surpass 5,000.
“The more engaging your post is, the more reach it will get naturally,” according to Socialbakers. “These are the posts you need to promote.”
Posts with 1,000 to 4,999 interactions attained 172,472 unique impressions, whereas posts with 5,000 or more interactions had 893,187 unique impressions—a huge increase. That’s partly due to paid reach that kicks in at this level.
“Clearly, this shows the power of amplifying your best posts through great advertising—and how the right posts can achieve huge reach when they are promoted. Focus on interactions, but make sure to take stock of how engagement defines other aspects of your social performance,” Socialbakers says.
The bottom line is this: Engagement rate is an indispensable metric for social media marketers. Marketers can use engagement rate to judge the effectiveness of their campaigns, compare themselves against competitors, and identify content worthy of further promotion.
William Comcowich is president and CEO of CyberAlert, which he founded in 1999. A version of this article originally appeared on the CyberAlert Blog.