Twitter Engagement and the Empty Promise

I’m kind’a freaked out. I’m not gonna lie. There’s something stinky go’n on up in here.

If you read this blog with any sort of regularity, you know that I like to measure my efforts, especially those of my clients. Something I strongly recommend measuring is “Engagement.” Typically, I define engagement as sharing, clicking or commenting. When something’s interesting, people say so. When its not, well – they ignore it. Its that simple (or that complicated). I think used to think engagement was a great measurement tool.

When I engage (click, share or comment) its because I think the information has been worth my time and I want my audience to see it. I consider it an endorsement – for whatever that’s worth.

But lately I’ve picked up on a trend that makes me question my engagement with the word “engagement”. Maybe I toss around that word too casually, as I do the words “love” and “safe to drink.” I’ve noticed lots of sharing going on that doesn’t correspond to web traffic. Now, I’m not a live and die by web traffic girl, but when I see great big gaps, I have to dig deeper. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sharing. I always try to thank everyone who gives the shout-out love (there’s that casual use of the “L” word again.) And sometimes, particularly of late, the conversation (engagement) happens on Twitter or Facebook, so its not going to correspond exactly to web traffic.  But its disturbing the increase I see of  people are sharing things when they don’t know what it says. What if the headline is “8 ways to make 1 million dollars using Twitter” bet that would get shared. But what if the content were blank, or worse, filled with crackpot advice, or more likely a porno video with a nasty virus? What happens when your audience clicks on it and finds worthless or dangerous information. Its short of like handing someone a carton of milk from your refrigerator without giving it the sniff test first..right?  Isn’t that a reflection on the sharer too? Or do I have it backwards, if your taking milk from someone who has to sniff it..what does that say about you?

Either way: stinky milk should never be shared or consumed.

Engagement definitions really need to go deeper, to ongoing relationships that can be better tracked with something like #Hashable, where conversations, not just RT’s, can be tracked over time. We already stopped kidding ourselves that a “follower” doesn’t necessarily = friend and that a RT doesn’t imply some sort of life-long commitment (for either party, for you legal nitpickers). But now we should start thinking about the people who are sharing the information and how engaged they are to that information. Because an engagement ring holds no promise until its worn. Content shared but not consumed is similarly empty. We gotta put that ring on a finger and care enough to sniff the milk before you give it out. Don’t just rely on numbers because they are easy….dig deeper..smell the milk before you smell the roses. Find out whose really engaging with your information, cultivate that relationship and turn it into a real engagement. After all, isn’t that the promise of social media?

Yes, that makes life slightly more complicated, but in the meantime, I think I’m going to have to rethink my engagement to engagement..and stinky milk.

What do you guys think? Am I off base? Should I quite my whining? What does satisfactory engagement look like to you?


Photo: Creative Commons Wallyg