How to measure engagement on organic social media channels? That’s simple. It’s just a combination of likes, comments, and shares right? The posts which don’t hit the average benchmark get tossed for themes which resonate. But what happens when your organic channel needs to address the needs of multiple audiences who have different needs? For example, the main Instagram page for an entire university. Pages which are tasked with speaking to current and future students, alumni, local businesses, lecturers, researchers, and all remaining staff.
Welcome to the organic social paradox – The pages which gain the most followers are the most niche, yet content creators are tasked with speaking to a swathe of audiences. How can we succeed with content strategies that defy the odds? Let’s take a look at human-based social insight and how it can reveal a potential path forward.
The Human Nature Behind Online Engagement
Marketers have messages they need to communicate while the audience has ideas of what they want to hear. The problem is that those two things rarely align. How do we resolve this conundrum for better engagements?
Take off your marketing hat for a moment and think like a user. Why do you follow the pages you follow? Okay so there’s the people in your immediate circle, a sports team or a musician, and a few celebrities. But what about those other pages? Most people follow pages not because of the person posting, but the theme of the content itself.
It’s human nature to follow accounts because they continually produce the subject matter we hope to ingest. It’s a small serotonin boost to see content which meets our expectations. After all, they are the things we’ve communicated make us happy. Sports pages post about sports, music about specific types of music, etc, etc. It’s rare for us to like a post just because a person posts it. It’s all about the content.
Defying those expectations leads to disastrous results.
Failing to Meet Content Expectations
There are plenty of examples of what happens when content fails to meet audience expectations. Spoiler alert, it never goes well. We’ll take a look at three, each one outside of the HE sector:
Fitness influencers have some of the largest followings online. Known for their workout tips and general hotness in skin tight clothing, they’ve build legions of dedicated fans. Problem is, when you’re known for your body, nothing else really matters. For example, when such influencers post a family pic, they inevitably receive comments from dissatisfied followers who don’t want to see children on their timeline. The numbers don’t lie either. Engagements absolutely plummet when they veer away from their usual content.
Art pages also gain large followings. Art is highly subjective, which is difficult for pages who specialise in sharing multiple forms of it. Followers are generally fine with drawing, painting, and sculpting but recoil at performance pieces and AI created pieces. Don’t even get started with paid sponsorships for products on such pages.
As a personal anecdote, I have a friend who designs 3D Pokemon cards on TikTok. Each video gains thousands of views, but such engagements are highly restricted to the Pokemon franchise. Each time they’ve tried to branch out with another type of card engagements absolutely plummeted. It’s because the audience is not following him for his skills, but for the subject of the content itself.
What each of these illustrate is that once you’ve carved out a niche type of content, and built an audience upon it, it’s incredibly tough to try new things. In short, creators become pigeonholed into the thing that gained them followers in the first place. Any deviation is met with disdain because it’s not what the followers want or expect.
The Engagement Measurement Solution
We really have two options with this insight in mind. We can build and maintain multiple monotonous pages, each one specialising on a different audience, or we can reconsider how we evaluate engagement metrics altogether. Our advice? Throw out the antiquated measurement systems that are limiting your output.
Instead of one benchmark for likes and engagements across all posts, set new ones specific to each audience and content theme. Understand how many likes a typical student event post receive vs an alumni one. Learn how many comments we get on a business outreach post vs a staff shout out.
By segmenting out engagements per content theme, we grant ourselves more the freedom to explore new types of content. Not to mention, the capability to address each of our niche audiences on a more personal level, which is of course, the true measurement of success on organic social.