Numbers Versus Engagement: How Big is Your Community?

Sheer numbers versus engagement.

This argument has played out many times between clients, agencies and social media ‘gurus’.

When analysing the success of your efforts on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, should your performance be measured in terms of community growth or engagement rates?

A recent study we did in to a number of local brands suggests that South African organisations are still highly focused on how many ‘Likes’ their page has.

Using the Engagement Rate metric (number of responses per day, divided by number of posts, divided by number of followers, multiplied by 100), we found that despite hundreds of thousands of community members, many well-known brands are still failing to get consumers talking.

The most worrying thing about this is that social media is inherently social.

It’s not a collection contest, in which you shove consumers into a leather-bound suitcase and forget about them, it’s a great way of encouraging people to interact with brands on a personal level in a way they might not be able to when staring at a newspaper advertisement or shouting at their car radio.

That being said, if local organisations are still heavily reliant on community growth to measure success in the online realm, how are digital teams attracting new followers?

Organic Growth

Organic growth is reasonably easy to achieve if you’re a big brand. If you’re not, however, persuading buyers to hit ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ can be a tough nut to crack.

One of the best ways to encourage this kind of advocacy is to leverage campaign based efforts to inspire the man on the street to digitally endorse your brand.

PPC Advertising

PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising is one of the most effective ways to build a loyal Facebook following. Thanks to the platform’s numerous and advanced advertising offerings, it’s easier than ever to reach the right people in the right way.

The greatest drawback is the budget that is required and the kind of person you might be attracting.

These days, it’s hard to entice consumer attention without the promise of free stuff. That being said, if you’re promising free stuff, you may find yourself seeding content to a community which is exclusively interested in giveaways.


Giveaways, when facilitated within the confines of social media Terms and Conditions (see Facebook’s thoughts on the matter here) is often a great way to encourage both community growth and interaction.

The downside, once again, is that an excessive focus on this kind of content may attract the wrong sentiment within the community.


Fantastically creative digital campaigns are arguably the best way to facilitate community growth.

Not only do these efforts encourage buyers to follow your brand, they also generate conversation – marrying the best of both worlds.

In this case, the adage that ‘if it was easy, everyone would be doing it’ really applies.
This kind of strategy requires brand leadership, a keen understanding of the consumer and the ability to execute the campaign perfectly.

Read our thoughts on the kind of viral content that often props these marketing drives up, offering them a level of talkability afforded by millions, here.

That being said – is the size of your community really the best way to gauge success online?

This attitude harks back to the days of traditional advertising, where delivery platforms (radio, television etc) were measured purely on their ability to reach as many people as possible.

Unfortunately, without a clear substitute, these metrics were applied to the social web – despite the fact that this medium is vastly different from anything that has preceded it.

Although actually an audience to communicate with is a vital factor in terms of effectiveness of community management strategies, it should not be the only measure of success.

Instead, we endorse an integrated approach which considers both engagement and growth.

-Tom Manners – MD,Clockwork Media

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