Engagement Matters More Than How Many Followers You Have

The true goal for any marketer in reaching their audience is understanding how many people actually consumed their content.

However, most people and brands are focused on metrics that don’t tell the true picture like follower count and the number of views. Efforts focused on increasing these numbers do not mean your content is successful.

Follower Count Does Not Matter

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try and grow our audience. Of course, we should. A greater audience means greater potential reach. But we should be growing real followers who actually care about our business and actively consume our content.

Would you prefer to have (A) 10,000 followers who just skip past your posts; or (B) 500 followers who like and comment on your content?

Most of us (but sadly not all) would prefer scenario B.

But, if you’re obsessed with growing your followers, then A would look appealing.

I hear you asking, “Why would anyone want zero engagement?” I don’t know but suspect it brings bragging rights. Some people want a high follower count to impress their friends.

This strategy is incredibly easy to execute. In fact, it’s cheap as well. But it’s also worthless.

Let’s explain how you could do this and why it’s pointless:

1. Buy followers

There are loads of companies on the Internet that you can buy followers for as little as $10 for 1,000. The problem is, they’re not real. They will not engage with your content. More importantly, they’re never going to buy from you.

2. Participate in follow-for-follow

This is where you follow people using the hashtag #followforfollow (or similar).

The problem with this approach is that these people have not followed you because they care about your content or your product. They’re following you because you are following them. They’re unlikely to like your posts or engage with your content. The most likely behaviour you can expect is that, sometime in the future, they will unfollow you.

Engagement is key

If we’re clear that the end goal is to get as many people actually consuming our content as possible, the question becomes how do we measure this to work out if we’re winning?

It turns out that measuring how many people genuinely watched and consumed your content is impossible to measure perfectly.

If we’re talking video, YouTube assumed if you’ve watched 30 seconds of a video, the chances are you’re actually “watching” it. Facebook, on the other hand, counts a view as 3 seconds.

But duration isn’t the best measure of true content consumption. How do we treat pre-rolls? These are video ads that are played and unskippable. Is every view over the required duration, indicative of consumptions? Certainly not.

The preferred measure to track is engagement.

If someone has taken the time to leave a comment on your post, they’ve clearly consumed it in the first place.

The same applies for when they’ve liked it, shared it or even saved it.

Using the advertising tools of today, it’s actually quite easy to measure engagement as you can see below with Instagram’s post metrics.

Instagram post insights are an excellent summary of engagement. You should add the likes, comments, shares and saves. In the above example, total engagement is: 3,800 + 112 + 369 + 824 = 5,105.

Grow Your Engagement and Your Distribution Will Increase

To understand how important engagement is, you need to take a macro view of the social media platforms.

Their number one goal is to get you to stay on the platform for as long as possible. Why? Because the longer you stay, the more ads they can show. And since these platform make almost all their money from ads, they earn more when you stay longer.

Bad content is the enemy of these platforms because if you fire up Instagram and see a bunch of content that doesn’t interest you, you’re going to leave.

The algorithms that have been developed are essentially highly sophisticated formulas that analyse a bunch of data to decide whether or not you will like seeing one of the pieces of content that is available for you to see.

To put it another way, they’re trying to look at all the data they have available to predict which content you would want to see ranked from most to least.

This concept was explained really clearly by Adam Mosseri, when he was looking after the Facebook News Feed. (He’s now the Head of Instagram.)

Additionally, in a blog shared on Facebook’s Media page, Adam outlined how important engagement is in deciding whether your content will be shown.

When ranking News Feed based on how meaningful each story is to each person, we look at many personal signals, such as how close someone is to the person or page posting, stories they’d want to talk to their friends and family about, spend time reading, and videos they’d spend time watching. We also look at more universal signals like the overall engagement (likes, comments, shares) that a post has. Publishers should focus on understanding the audiences they want to reach, so they can create content meaningful to them.

Adam Mosseri, VP, News Feed


Your follower count doesn’t mean people are seeing your content.

Stop focusing on how many followers you have and start working out how to get people to actually engage with your content.

More engaging content will send signals to the platforms that your content is good. And they’ll reward you with greater reach which will flow onto even greater engagement.

You’ll then notice a strange thing will start to happen. Your follower count will start increasing too.