A larger following generally means a reduced engagement rate for social media accounts. As counterintuitive as this may seem, there are a few reasons why this outcome is frequently seen. Follower incentive, diverse audience needs, and success repetition are the main reasons we are going to explore in more detail.
What is an Engagement Rate?
Before we dive in, it is important to remember what goes into an engagement rate. Engagement rate measures how engaged your followers are with your content. It’s found by dividing the number of engagements on a post by your total followers, then multiplying the result by 100. Here’s a visualisation of the engagement rate formula for a static post:
So, if engagement rate follows the same formula – why is it that larger accounts see smaller rates?
The first factor to consider when looking at engagement rates is follower quality. Do you have a personal connection with your followers (i.e. family members or friends)? Do they consistently like your posts and interact with your content? These kinds of personal connections add an extra layer of motivation to consistently like and interact with content.
For example, a small business just starting out is likely to receive more support and engagement from family and friends than a massive corporation. As accounts look to grow, they begin prospecting new audiences. When generating new followers, the connection between user and company becomes less personal and the likelihood of strong engagement drops.
Diverse Audience Needs
The larger the audience, the more diverse the needs of the user base becomes. Not every person will resonate with all pieces of content that you put out. This is why it is harder for accounts to maintain tight bonds with every new follower, and why follower quality generally diminishes with size.
For example, universities have many different stakeholders to speak to (i.e. students, parents, faculty, community, etc.), all very different audiences who have different priorities and objectives. Messaging is subjective to each person’s views, which makes it nearly impossible to please everyone with the same piece of content.
Even if a post goes viral and receives a lot of engagement, it’s difficult to repeat this success. As is the nature of social media. A good example of this is looking at celebrity engagement after releasing hit singles – one song may go viral, but the odds of repeating this success is minimal. In fact, a declining engagement rate is completely natural when expanding a following up to a certain size.
Monitoring Engagement Rates
So, what can we learn? Engagement rates can be influenced through methods such as monitoring audience reaction and re-tailoring content based off of previous success, but should engagement be your end goal? As we know, social media is here to stay for the foreseeable future. We also know that audiences are dynamic and not everyone will resonate with the same content. Instead, focus on post quality to retain existing followers and gradually work towards improving engagement rates over time.