The debate over which social media initiative – reach or engagement – reigns supreme when it comes to brands has been discussed at length. Why the lack of consensus over a “correct” answer? We believe it’s because each metric represents a different type of information working towards different goals.
One of the very first things we do with new clients is to determine what their goals are: not just social media, but overall business goals as well. We believe that social media should be integrated into their overall marketing strategy to achieve overarching business goals and a consistent brand image.
Before getting into how reach and engagement can have an effect on different goals, let’s define the two terms:
Reach: Reach is generally regarded as the total number of people who view a brands’ social property or messaging. For our purposes we will apply it in a more broad sense, as a metric that defines how widespread a brand’s content is.
Engagement: We’ll define engagement as actions taken in response to content distributed from social properties that creates a “story,” or public action, i.e. shares, comments, likes, tweets, pins, or any other social action to digitally signify content consumption. (We are not counting clicks, because they do not create a story that others can see).
So, to look at this in a more actionable way for your brand, here are goals broken down by reach, engagement, and both.
Our Conclusion? To fulfill multiple marketing goals through social media, your brand needs to optimize for reach AND engagement.
Reach and engagement influence clients at different parts of the buying cycle, mutually feeding off each other to create a strong, united digital presence. When building a social media community, you can’t receive engagement without reaching your target audience and convince them to join the community first. Once they have joined, strong content and engagement keeps them captive, allowing you to reach them, as well as their secondary connections, with marketing messages.
Reach and engagement are two important pieces of the buying cycle for consumers, affecting the five major areas: discovery, research, evaluation, adoption and evangelism.
By reaching high numbers of people, you help them discover you, as well as learn about you. Once the consumer has brand awareness, they will evaluate you, which takes a combination of reach (eyes on brand), as well as relevant information for them to engage with. After evaluating, they will take action with your brand (purchase, sign up, etc.), which is where engagement helps nurture the leads along. The final step is evangelism, which is where social media often is portrayed as strongest because of its ability to provide customer service and allow for product feedback.