Follower Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story: Engagement Does

What’s the most important statistic on your social media platform? If you said follower count, you’re still thinking like a beginner.

In the early days of building a social media presence follower numbers are a creator’s primary focus. Once you’re established, though, that number isn’t the most important metric. Increasing engagement should be the elite influencer’s goal. Having an active group of followers extends the longevity of your brand, turning you from a momentary sensation to an enduring online presence. There are also more monetization opportunities for those with better engagement rates. Read on for an in-depth discussion of why engagement should be your most-watched statistic.

Follower count is a vanity metric 

Follower numbers are a vanity metric for high-level influencers. It sounds impressive to say “6 million followers,” but without activity behind it that number is hollow. For one thing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of your followers aren’t real people. They may be bots, lapsed accounts that haven’t been deleted, secondary accounts used for contests- whatever the reason, these followers aren’t valuable for growing your brand.

At its core, follower count is just a reflection of the number of people who liked your content at one point in time. It doesn’t correspond with the number of users who are still active fans. After reaching the minimums needed to join social media partner programs, follower numbers are only important as overall trends. If they suddenly rise or fall you should investigate why, but other than that your focus should be on how engaged your followers are.

Organic reach depends on engagement 

Social media platforms have to sort through mountains of content. YouTube, for example, sees 300 hours of video content uploaded every minute. To decide what content users see in their news feed, they apply weighted algorithms to estimate how relevant a particular piece of content is for a particular user. The number of people who see your content without advertising is called organic reach (we have a great article on the topic over here).

The thing is, organic reach is on the decline. Platforms like Facebook have warned brands to expect near-zero levels without advertising in the near future. To make the most of the reach you have, you need to increase your relevance to users. Do that by pushing engagement.  Newsfeed algorithms assign more weight to creators with higher fan interaction rates. Prioritize engagement and you’ll see lower advertising costs involved in promoting your brand.

Engagement drives growth 

Fans are your best form of advertising. You want followers who become brand evangelists, who share and advocate for your content. If you have 1 million followers but they rarely share your content, you can’t grow your footprint. 500K followers with a 0.5% engagement rate are more valuable than 1 million followers with a .05% engagement rate.

Engagement makes you money 

This is simple, yet true. You make no adshare off silent fans who don’t engage with your content. When your audience feels invested in your brand, they let ads play on your content or check out partner offers to support you. Also, tracking engagement tells you how much economic pull you have with your followers. The followers who interact with your brand regularly are the ones most likely to click links, buy merchandise, support crowd-sourcing campaigns, and download your apps.

Only active followers create data 

Data is so valuable it’s being called the “new oil”. Analyzing your data will help you create a follower profile to guide your content creation strategy, telling you what your followers respond to and what they don’t. It’s also a useful tool for choosing which sponsors are the best fit for your brand.

Engagement data is one of the few metrics provided by social media platforms, so you need to make the most of it. Apathetic followers tell you nothing. Get them engaged, then let their reaction show you what will keep them coming back.

Advertisers and sponsors care about engagement 

Influencer marketing is the face of the future. Social media spending in the US is expected to reach $17.34 billion in 2019. It has one of the highest average ROIs of any advertising method.

The value comes from influencers themselves. 70% of consumers trust their favorite online celebrities more than they trust commercials, so working with a popular YouTuber or Instagram star lends a company credibility. High engagement numbers prove to advertisers that you are an authority on your subject. They make you more attractive as an advertising partner.

For most creators, sponsors and advertisers make up a huge portion of their revenue stream. It’s vital to keep those partners happy, and to do that you need consistent engagement. Active followers mean more eyes and ears for products, more shares and like and conversions to demonstrate your value.

Engagement builds lasting popularity 

You worked hard to build your brand, and you want it to stay viable as long as possible. Engaged followers provide an enduring presence in the face of your competition. Their shares, comment-section debates, hashtags, and even fan art keep your name in the news and your brand relevant.

What does good engagement look like?

Some experts recommend waiting for a 2-4% audience engagement rate before approaching brands. That’s somewhat unrealistic for creators with millions of followers. Elite content creators have a lot of inactive followers who like their page for contests or to indicate interest on linked social media pages. The more followers, the harder it is to get a higher engagement rate. Even the top 25 global brands have engagement rates of around .07%.

So what is good engagement? Social Bakers found that the average social media engagement rate is .07%. For those with more than a million followers, the goal should be to meet or exceed that average to put yourself in the top performing half of content.

What affects engagement rates? 

Now that you know engagement is important, you’re probably wondering what affects it. These are the top four factors that impact your engagement rates.

  • Reach/Follower count: Because engagement is calculated using your follower numbers, the most popular channels will see lower engagement rates from the same activity. This doesn’t mean small channels have a wider reach; it’s just a quirk of mathematics.
  • How active you are: If you post too much, your content reads as spam to algorithms and your engagement drops. Don’t post often enough and you won’t hold your followers’ interest. The ideal strategy is to post 4-8 times a week, rarely more than twice per day unless you have a special event happening.
  • Two-way interaction: Fans like attention from their favorite celebrities. Influencers who reply, retweet, and like fan content get more dedicated followers. This also boosts your ranking by newsfeed algorithms by making you look more like a person your followers know in real life. John Green and Ryan Reynolds have seen huge returns on their two-way interaction.
  • Quality of posts: Followers don’t want to feel like a commodity. Post things they actually want to see: informational posts, photos, and personal updates. Choose your sponsors and advertising partners carefully to avoid pushing away your fans. After all, people skip ads. If your page reads like a sales flyer, they’ll leave.

Make engagement your priority 

High follower counts are fun to brag about, but they aren’t what matters most in the social media big leagues. Focus on the metric with the largest impact on your brand. Engagement is what brings you longevity, advertising appeal, and creative freedom. Push your engagement numbers up and your revenue will increase as well.

Have you hit a plateau in growing your engagement? A custom branded app from FanHero can take your brand to the next level. Set up your free consultation to find out more!


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