Engaging with an audience is at the core of any company or brand's objectives for taking part in social media, even if it's not one of the ultimate goals of their social media program. The ultimate goal may be sales, sign-ups, increased customer satisfaction, or any number of other goals, but audience engagement will always play a crucial role in attaining those goals.
Audience engagement is likely at the core of every good social media program, so understanding how to measure it is essential. Because there aren't any standards or widely accepted calculations for audience engagement, or for that matter most social media metrics, there ends up being differing definitions, depending on who you ask.
The metrics listed below are by no means an exhaustive list, because the type of social media program that's being run will likely factor into what metrics are used for the audience engagement calculation. For example, if YouTube isn't part of the social media campaign, then YouTube engagement metrics isn't going to be applicable.
Each of the metrics below can also be used in other calculations to get even greater insights, but for the purpose of this column, I'll stick to using them as part of a total audience engagement metric.
Blog comments are a simple, easy way to get a sense of how engaging your blog posts are. This can be applied to a corporate or other company run blog, as well as to other internal sites where there is the capability to engage the audience through comments.
An easy metric to generate through Facebook Insights, Facebook interaction is the sum of comments, wall posts, and likes on your Facebook page. Similar to blog comments, it allows you to begin to understand how effective your Facebook posts and content are in generating engaged audience members.
Simply looking at the volume of tweets your company or brand puts out is fairly meaningless because you generally want to engage your audience and not broadcast to them. Because of that, looking at the number of retweets will begin to shed light on the relevancy of your tweets in the eyes of your audience and allow you to understand what gets your audience engaging with your company or brand.
Beyond just showing that they enjoy and get value out of your company or brand's tweets, an @tweet is a prime example of an audience member who has the desire to directly engage with your company or brand. This is truly where an engagement can lead to developing or enhancing a relationship.
YouTube Video Interactions
This is a metric that is a rollup of video comments, favorites, and ratings. Similar to Facebook interactions, YouTube video interactions measure how well your company or brand's videos move viewers beyond watching a video to then engage with it.
YouTube Channel Interactions
As the name indicates, a YouTube channel interaction is a similar metric to video interactions, except it relates to your company or brand channel as a whole instead of videos. This is again a rollup metric that includes channel comments and channel favorites. This metric gives excellent insights into understanding if viewers are moving beyond engaging with just an individual video to instead making a more personal connection by engaging more at the company or brand level.
Social Media Brand Mentions
There are a lot of engagement opportunities that can take place outside the leading social media channels. Measuring these is also important to understanding the overall level of audience engagement that's taking place around your company or brand.
An example would be tracking the number of engagements that take place in forums/message boards that talk about your company or brand.
Additional Engagement Metrics
Depending on how your company or brand is engaging in social media, there may be other metrics that should be factored into audience engagement. The additional metrics will likely come from the various social media channels that are outside of the ones listed above. These could include Diggs, StumbleUpon likes, LinkedIn group activity or followers, social bookmarks, etc.
For a particular campaign, audience engagement would be the sum of the metrics listed above. The audience engagement metric can then be divided by total views or total reach (which I'll avoid getting into now in the hopes of avoiding an endless column) to, in essence, normalize the data.
Once the calculation is determined, you can set your baseline and begin to track the effectiveness of the social media campaign at driving engagement over time.
What do you think? In the comments, it would be great to hear what metrics you use to calculate audience engagement in social channels.