Many a battle has been fought over what signifies success in online marketing measuring: impressions vs engagement. It is more important to get as many eyeballs as possible on your content, or is how the audience reacts socially more critical in achieving your marketing utopia?
I was drawn to this conundrum from a question on Quora. Someone asked since her blog posts had got lots of impressions, why didn't she get any engagement? Surely many people viewing her posts meant these readers would be willing to have their say?
Well, sweetie, it doesn't always work like that. Of all your readers, only 10% will be willing to leave a comment, and only 1% of those will comment regularly. These are increasingly small rewards for a lot of hard work. Perhaps the infographic below will give you a good idea why:
And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.
What is the battle of impressions vs engagement?
Once upon a time, when commenting was a new phenomenon back in the heady days of Web 2.0, people were falling over themselves to write a comment on your blog. It was so exciting to leave a response in situ right underneath the source.
And then social media took over and destroyed all that. Commenting in real-time allowed shorter, disjointed and immediate conversations. Reading content online became a method of gaining information, educating the world, sharing your knowledge to benefit anyone who came across it.
Blogs may be viewed many times a day, but nobody is moved to comment. Stats dutifully show how many impressions your posts have received, but this doesn't reveal if your posts were read or understood. The bounce-rate displays arrival and almost instantaneous exit, disclosing how relevant those people were for this particular content.
At what point does reach get involved?
Impressions can be obtained through a variety of ways, and then it becomes known as reach. This can be achieved organically (especially if your SEO is successful), promotionally through digital marketing and paid-for advertising, and virally, which is actually the result of engagement (liking, sharing, commenting, etc).
Reach could be seen as the measurable part of impressions. Impressions are delivered, but not always received or seen. Reach shows acknowledgement of these activities, such as in stats figures, even if it doesn't necessarily result in anybody taking any action over it.
Your reach could be huge. Sometimes this is dependent upon how kind the social media algorithms are towards you. If they deem your content to be worthy of being placed in front of a lot of people, this could be seriously advantageous to your visibility.
What are their characteristics?
Not only do you need to understand the differences between impressions vs engagement, but how these concepts affect and matter within your marketing goals.
Impressions rely on repetition, frequency and being omnipresent. The idea is to get the content placed in front as many people as possible. It doesn't matter if all, or any, look at or even notice it. The fact that it exists within the person's environment is enough to qualify.
Engagement is registered through responses and performable actions. The user has to be directly involved. This may mean clicking to read it, being compelled to share it to their friends and followers, and even (ultimately) commenting about what they thought about it.
How do these affect your social marketing aims?
Why is impressions vs engagement important to you? Does it matter how many people 'see' your content? Is this 'vanity metric' important to you or your marketing manager? Do you think having evidence of a wide visibility base makes a difference?
Focusing only on impressions could be deemed as ethereal. You have no way of knowing how your content was received, unless they took action (eg engaged with it). It could be ignored, deleted or passed by, all of which could be soul destroying for all the hard work which probably went into producing it.
However, engagement is more concrete. Having a goal to get a certain number of likes, shares and comments is measurable, accountable and ideally obtainable. It determines the quality, relatability and success of the content. Engagement proves the audience approved, disagreed or found the content useful or not.
Which is more measurable?
Many people obsess over figures. The higher the better. Getting thousands of page views every day signifies success to them. Their blog or website must be doing well because so many people have the opportunity to see their content.
However, this is only scanty evidence these people have actually seen the post or page. If the bounce-rates are high, this shows many may have immediately moved on. The search engines are not always accurate in placing content in front of the most appropriate people.
Whereas engagement is a more suitable measurement of success. This reveals the content has been read, understood and action taken. If what has been read resonated with the audience, the effort expended to click, like, share and comment is proof of achieving something worth while.
How can they help each other?
Many die-hard marketers who wallow in numbers say that to get engagement, you need to have a high numbers of impressions. This is true, especially when the average engagement rate is only 2%. Such low results indicate whether people are feeling comfortable enough to engage in the first place.
But engagement also proves the content was worthy of getting increased impression rates. Excellent content will gather engagement, regardless of how often it was viewed. Sometimes it's better to get feedback from a small number of true and loyal fans than to scatter your content in the hope that some of it may stick.
There are many social influencers with massive audiences who are shocked when they find out the truth about how many are willing to actually engage, take action and participate with them. Popularity is fickle, it is so easy to sign up, watch casually and then move on. Garnering real fans is a totally different concept.
What's your opinion of impressions vs engagement?
Impressions vs engagement is about brand awareness vs people interacting to content. One is about increasing visibility, the other about creating dialogue to form relationships with fans and followers.
Impressions have the possibility of being ignored, engagement have a greater chance of converting people. Impressions may influence the desire to buy a product, whereas engagement would ensure this action actually happened, through finding out what is wanted and then providing it.
What are you experiences of impressions vs engagement? Which do you prefer? Are you blinded by data, or like to have cold hard evidence presented in front of you? Do you hide behind figures, or enjoy having a really good conversation with a potential customer?
Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.