Why Facebook and Instagram Engagement Metrics Don’t Matter

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When you’re an agency that offers both organic and paid social marketing services, we often hear questions like: “I want to focus on building Page Likes on my Facebook profile, what’s the best approach?” Or “can you tell me which of my posts on Instagram had the most likes so I know what my audience likes?”  


Though it may seem like using social media engagement metrics are the best way to measure your success on Facebook and Instagram, we’re here to let you in on a secret: engagements don’t matter.

Surprised? Here’s our top four reasons why engagements aren’t the best way to measure success.

1. Organic reach is dead

Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But organic reach is depleted to a point where posting organically alone just isn’t cutting it anymore. Between Facebook’s advancements in it’s ad offerings and their constant algorithm changes, only 1-2% of your “fans” will ever see anything you post organically.

Think about it, the average user on Facebook is a “fan” of anywhere from 100-800 pages Add in family and friends (which Facebook prioritizes) and you’re lucky if your post even shows up in their newsfeed at all. So, even if you run a campaign to bring in more qualified likes to your page (see reason 2), now what? Of the 1,000 likes you paid for, only 10 will potentially see anything you post.

2. Fans do not equal target personas

Have you ever stopped to consider who your “fans” or “followers” actually are? Are they male or female? How old are they? Where do they live? What are they interested in? What is their job title? Where do they work? Why did they like your page?

Many businesses automatically assume that users who liked or followed their page are their most qualified audience. I mean, these are people who clicked a button and said they liked you, so they must be interested in your product or service, right? Not quite.

When Facebook first launched it’s ad product, the only audience you could pay to reach was your fan base. But Facebook quickly realized that not everyone who clicks the Like button is necessarily the right person for your product or service. They also realized that many qualified prospects might not have liked your page at all, either because they don’t know it exists, or because they just don’t want to.

Do you go around liking the Facebook pages of all of the brands you enjoy? Your favorite toilet paper or laundry detergent brand? Probably not, but it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t purchase from them.

Because of this, Facebook launched more advanced targeting options for paid advertising. By leveraging paid ads across Facebook and Instagram, you can take your content and promote it to anyone who has a Facebook or Instagram account, selecting specific attributes, like CEOs of companies 5,000+ or 35-year-old females who have an interest in soccer. You can make these selections whether they are a “fan” or not.

3. The Facebook & Instagram engagement spectrum

Not everyone is a social butterfly. We know this about people in social situations offline, but what about online? It’s not that different. Online, the spectrum ranges from Inactive (does not create nor consume social media) to Author (creates their own original online content, like an Instagram influencer).

Most of us are somewhere in the middle: we’re either Spectators (consume content but don’t interact) or we’re Connectors (we share content via social networks with our friends + family).

Lastly, we have the Commentators. These are the people who like to offer their opinion frequently, usually through comments/discussions on posts. Commentators are most often the ones liking, sharing and commenting on your ads or organic posts. But it’s important to remember that just because someone is a “social butterfly” on social media, doesn’t mean they are in your target persona. In fact, most of your customers are likely Spectators or Connectors.

When you see an ad for a product you want to check out, do you usually make a point to comment on it? Or share it to your personal Facebook page? Probably not.

4. Facebook and Instagram engagements do not translate to business objectives

Facebook has conducted various studies measuring the correlation between engagements and business objectives. How do likes, comments and shares of a post translate back to brand awareness, ad recall, ROI and lead generation? Big news: Facebook found absolutely no correlation.

What did  correlate back to business objectives? Impressions, unique reach, clicks and frequency. Consider these three scenarios as an example:

  • It’s 6am and Tom is on his way to work on the train. He checks Facebook on his phone and sees an ad from Starbucks promoting their latest coffee drink. It looks amazing; he’s convinced. On his walk to the office, he stops into his nearest Starbucks location and purchases it. Tom didn’t comment on the ad, or share it on his personal FB page, but the ad still influenced his purchase.
  • Jen’s relaxing over the weekend and is scrolling through her friends and family updates on Instagram. She’s served an ad for a service that can help companies organize their tasks and projects. She doesn’t engage with the ad. On Sunday, she’s served the ad again, but again she does not engage. On Monday, Jen is in a meeting with her team and they are brainstorming ways to organize their tasks. Jen remembers the ad she saw over the weekend and decides to Google it and ask for a demo.
  • Sarah is at work and scrolling through her Facebook feed. She sees an ad for a product that she’s not personally interested in, but likes the way the ad looks, so she gives it a “Like.” Sarah never pursues this product.

If not engagement metrics, then what?

If engagements aren’t your best measure of success on Facebook and Instagram, what should you be looking at as a B2B business? At BDM, we focus on a variety of different metrics depending on what we choose as our our key performance indicator (KPI) to measure performance.

Impressions tell us how many times our ad was seen, while reach tell us how many unique users viewed it. A combination of these two metrics gives us frequency, or the average amount of times each user saw our ad. This is important because we know sometimes all it takes is seeing an ad for a user to take action. We also know that ad recall is strongest when a user sees an ad 2-3 times per week.

Clicks tell us how many times a user clicked on our ad to visit our website. CTR measures the rate at which users clicked on our ads compared to the amount of times the ad was shown.The stronger the CTR the more relevant the ad was to our targeted audience. CPC is the measure of how much it cost for each click we brought to the site. These metrics are important because we want to bring users off of Facebook and to our website. Once they land on our site, we can measure additional metrics like time on site and bounce rate to determine if the traffic is qualified. Additionally, by utilizing Facebook’s remarketing pixel, we can now remarket to these users with additional ads.

Leads or Content Downloads are the most common metric that we focus on. Leads are counted when a user clicks on a Facebook Ad and fills out a form either on the clients website or through a Facebook Lead Gen Ad. Leads are a users way of telling us they want to learn more.

Today, it’s these metrics that matter most for driving real results for businesses. Ready to move on from monitoring engagements alone? We can help. Take a look at how we approach paid social media advertising.

Jordan Katz

Jordan Katz

Jordan helps businesses of all sizes get more leads, generate sales, and reach their target customers online. Jordan has an extensive background in both organic and paid social, most recently working with Estee Lauder Companies to execute strategic paid social campaigns for their portfolio of brands.