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The Changing Face of Social Engagement

3 MINUTE READ | August 12, 2019

The Changing Face of Social Engagement

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Carly Carson, Head of Paid Social

Carly Carson has written this article. More details coming soon.

Report after report is published touting that social engagement is on the decline. But before brands start to feel the FOMO, it’s important to understand that engagement isn’t necessarily declining, it’s changing

Social platform behavior changes constantly, and over the past year, changes are happening at lightning speed. Consumers are taking a different approach to how they socialize within networks. Moving away from actively commenting, liking, and sharing content, the engagement is happening in new and different ways that are even harder to measure.

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One major shift driving a change in engagement is the influx of stories-based platforms and content. Snapchat pioneered this, and in doing so, the shelf-life of content shifted from days to just hours. In addition, the lack of publicly available “like” and “comment” counts has shifted behavior from users pandering to their audiences to drive action. This stories-based environment has also taken over Instagram. eMarketer reports that time spent within Instagram is growing, however, reports touting declines in engagement still cause concern. Instagram behavior is changing, people are spending more time in stories — where engagements are harder to quantify. In addition, the shift to sharing content via direct message is on the rise which is not publicly available to measure for brands.

The overarching concern around social networking privacy has also given way to a shift in platform behavior. Users are turning inward, taking their socializing to the direct message box and encrypted messaging apps rather than relying on the newsfeed. It’s important for brands to crack the nut on how to find an authentic voice and a viable way to make an impact within private 1:1 messaging spaces. Users are going to expect seamless experiences, whether it’s shopping, setting appointments, tracking order logistics or customer service all directly within messaging apps.

In addition to that, platforms are moving away from weighing engagement as a badge of social currency. Instagram is testing the removal of like counts from photos and Twitter is giving users more power with the option to hide comments. These tools are geared toward making social networking a safer place for its users — helping to limit online bullying and the effects of social networking causing lower self-esteem. This shift will only continue; making it more important for brands to lose the engagement rate as a primary KPI, and think about how their content can drive attention and provide value to their audiences. 

Lastly, the rise of social video has changed the way users consume media on social networks. Previously, brands would pander to their audiences by asking questions to spur artificial conversation and bolster engagement rate numbers. Now, the rise of video shows that users are less likely to comment or like specific pieces of content. The engagement is the consumption of video, so brands need to think more about how to quantify qualified time spent and video views as a new barometer for engagement. 

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So what should a brand do now? As always, content is king. If a brand’s content is strong, thoughtful, authentic, and provides value, it’ll see the effect of this activity on other core business metrics outside of just likes, comments, and shares. By providing users with thoughtfully curated experiences, whether it’s a messenger-first approach to social care or social commerce or even quality video content that people want to spend time with, you’ll likely see a positive correlation with sales metrics.

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