What’s to like about a like?
Social platforms use views, likes and shares to track engagement. However, each platform calculates the measures differently, and that is big trouble for brands trying to run successful campaigns.
Social media engagement measurement
There are several common metrics used to track social media engagement. The most well-known ones are views, shares, comments, and likes. However, there is no standard for these measures across social sites.
For instance, the way a view is measured on Facebook and YouTube is very different. YouTube will count a view only after 30 seconds of a video has been viewed, while Facebook only waits 3 seconds. Also, YouTube allows people to share videos but does not display how many times a video has been shared. Facebook also allows videos to be shared but displays the number of shares prominently.
On YouTube, a user can “like” or “dislike” a video, but on Facebook and Instagram, only the “like” option is available. All three platforms allow users to comment on posts and videos. On Snapchat, however, there is no way to “like,” comment or see how many views a video has attracted. Only those who have posted the video can see who has viewed it. Instead, Snapchat relies heavily on direct messaging between users.
Though the differences in measurement between platforms may not seem that significant to users, they create a real headache for brands. Determining the effectiveness of a branded video is critical in measuring the performance of a campaign. Without a standard for measuring engagement, it becomes difficult to determine which videos are working and which are not.
So, this begs the question, what is relevant engagement?
How much is a like worth?
Knowing how the engagement metric is calculated is critical to determining its worth. For example, when Facebook began focusing on video delivery, analysts looked at its high video view count and declared it a superior platform to YouTube. However, most of the Facebook views came from videos auto-playing as people scrolled through their feed. Most views barely lasted longer than 3 seconds and played with the sound muted.
A YouTube view delivers far higher engagement since the users must select the video to play, and the view isn’t counted if they exit before 30 seconds of playback. The world learned its lesson, and Facebook still has work to do to build out its video strategy.
Another method of engagement that has been called into question is the ‘like.’ Recently, Instagram announced it was testing “hiding public like counts in Canada.” In this model, only the person who owns the account will be able to see how many people liked the post. Why would Instagram consider such a drastic change?
To ‘like’ a picture or video on Instagram, a user simply ‘double taps’ the screen. According to Beca Alexander, the President of Socialyte,[i] such a simplistic approach, makes an Instagram ‘like’ the “least interesting metric.”
Not only is a ‘like’ an insubstantial measurement of engagement, but also something that can easily be faked. As a content creator myself, I have long known about apps that can deliver artificial views and likes on Instagram. Instagram is suing one of these companies for making $9 million faking views.
Cheating on Instagram is big business, and it is becoming ever easier. So, how are brands to determine the real from the fake? Once again, it comes back to the metrics.
According to Alexander of Socialyte, because it is easy to fabricate metrics such as likes and followers “… is not an important metric anymore because what is important is how people view the content and how many people actually engage with that.” For instance, brands care far more about how many people are saving the image because they’ll look at it repeatedly. They also like to see how many people “click in” or “swipe up” on the image to get more information.
So, before you allow yourself to be impressed by someone’s social media engagement, understand how they are calculating it.
Why it matters
Social video sites measure engagement through views, likes, and shares.
There is no standard for calculating them.
The lack of the standard is causing problems in measuring ad campaign effectiveness.
[i] Socialyte represents 100 Instagram influencers and advises brands on influencer strategy.