What do engagement and content even mean anymore?

I’m being serious.

Really.

What do “engagement” and “content” even mean anymore?

These were by far the two biggest buzz words within the digital and social media world over the last two years.  For a while we all had a handle on what this all meant.

Engagement: Getting your fans and followers to interact, to literally ‘engage’ with whatever it is that you are putting out there from your brand socially/digitally.  This could’ve meant “likes” and shares, or re-tweets, or commenting, or fans telling you they hate your guts, or your mom sharing your own post on your own timeline.  Whatever the action – there was some kind of action from your community.

Content: The “what” that you put out there from your brand.  This could be a video, a blog, a photo, a collection of GIFs, a story, a mural….whatever you think is best.  It’s your brand.

Now I want to be clear, I am not actually asking for a definition of what content means today.  That one is still pretty clear and relatively unchanged.  What I am getting at is what does it stand for now and where is it going?

Prior to the “WE NEED ENGAGEMENT ON OUR CONTENT” phase of social media from brands, so, let’s say 2010, fan acquisition was the holy grail for a while.  Everyone wanted the most fans they could get, and to have the most fans meant that your brand was important and credible and awesome and whatever.  Just blindly collecting numbers of fans somehow was a “strategy” and translated to business success.  Again…whatever.  The fact that some brands still beg their fans to get them to a certain number of fans or followers is flat out silly.  And ridiculous.

I digress….

Over the last few years, getting high engagement has been where it’s at.  Having huge virality on Facebook on a given post felt like you scored a touchdown and hit a home run at the same time.  It smelled like success if you were a social media manager.  Solid interaction meant you won.  People were interacting with your content and this meant they were interacting with your brand.  Boom.

Winning in this form was destined to fade away.  And that time is now.

I’m not saying engagement in that form isn’t good.  Of course it’s good.  Your community is engaging.  Great.  But just settling on that is so 2012.

Social media managers and (good) agencies are now asking deeper questions.  What does that engagement actually DO for us?  For our business?  For our brand?  What does a “like” mean for our company?  If someone re-tweets something we put out there does that mean we just gained more potential customers?  Will they spend money?  What the hell is GOING ON?!  No longer can you just submit a report with social engagement and be all like, “See, lots of likes on this post.  Our business must be doing really well.”

I wrote a blog a few months ago about users that do consume your content but don’t take an action through social media.   They don’t generate a social ‘stat’ that you can use as part of your numbers to say you won.  What about those people?  You didn’t get any engagement as we’ve loved to call it for the last 2 years but they saw your post, read it, wrote themselves a note about something.  Maybe they even went a bought something from your website later. That’s winning.  But you can’t track that (unless you talk to Verizon).  I also wrote about how only tracking and looking at revenue through social media is wrong, and I do believe that.  Your business’s goal needs to be unique to what you’re using social media FOR.  It’s not always just about dollars generated.

And on to content.

Basically, SO many brands now days are paying to put their content (blogs, videos, photos, cat memes) in front of you on all kinds of websites and apps that you literally don’t even have to surf around the web any longer to find crap to read or watch.  The problem is, a lot of the time it is just that – crap, put in front of you.  With so much promoted crap all over every website now, I think it actually insults my intelligence.  Do you think I don’t know how to use the internet?  Do I not have websites I like already?  Do I need your crap put in front of my face?  Do I need your tweets promoted in my timeline every single morning for five straight days, or your Facebook post that is totally irrelevant to me locked in on the top of my news feed?  No.  I don’t.

Back to my original question – what does content mean anymore?  It’s crap now.  Not ALL of it.  But, a lot of it.  It’s everywhere.  People aren’t dumb.  It’s getting to the point where so much content is promoted/paid that people are just going to start avoiding clicking on that stuff for the sole reason that they know you spent money on it.  BURN.

Whatever happened to people organically discovering your awesome, truly original, amazing content?  This is where app.net gets interesting – no ads, apparently less crap, but for a small fee.  I’ll talk about that one on a blog at another time…

So anyway, what the heck am I talking about?  

Engagement needs to do more.  Simply getting social stats doesn’t tell the story of success for your brand socially.  In 2013 and 2014 the goal will be determining how that is actually helping and affecting your business and brand.  Social analytics tools need to get deeper.  Everyone’s vision of ‘winning’ here will be different, however, by the end of this year I would think brands everywhere will agree that a “like” is no more important to your brand that an actual thumbs up by a guy on the street.  The latter is much more hilarious, however.

Content is getting messy.  It’s like Mr. Content himself got paid a bunch of money and took a huge dump on the internet.  Yes, Mr. Content is the all-embodying mythological being that creates everything on the internet, that I just made up.

Get deeper with social “engagement” and better and smarter with content distribution so we don’t all go blind.

That is all.

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