How to Measure Engagement and Why It Matters for Your Platform

How to measure engagement

A few weeks ago I was asked about how to measure engagement, and I gave a quick answer in a comment thread. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I spend a lot of time talking about how crucial engagement is, and not enough time talking about how to measure it.

When I was an editor at a New York publisher, I would have anywhere from 7-15 meetings a week. Mostly that was because I had to be at meetings for two different teams, but it still meant anywhere from 1-2 full work days a week spent sitting around a conference room with a group of people.

Some of the meetings were awesome and energizing and full of smart people brainstorming about our books. But some of them were painful. If anyone has ever been in a production meeting where you’re reviewing deadlines title-by-title, you’re probably as accomplished of a doodler as I am. I can now draw quite a menagerie of miniature animals. This is in no way a life skill.

But the point is that it was the content of the meeting that determined whether I was an active or inactive participant. If we were talking about one of my books, or about marketing strategies, or about titles, I was usually giving my full attention and input to the meeting. If we were talking about production dates that had nothing to do with me, it was giraffe-drawing time.

If you had put a two-way mirror in that conference room and placed a randomly selected group of people on the other side, they could have easily told you which people in the meeting were engaged, simply by looking at who was interacting with the meeting content—by offering opinions, asking questions, or expressing emotion.

The meeting of the minds that is your blog/vlog/website is no different. Some people are just popping their head into the room and leaving, some people are present but not engaged, and some people are all in. The people who are all in will be interacting with your content in one way or another. So measuring engagement is really about measuring action.

How, exactly, to measure engagement on different platforms:

Content Actions: These are any actions happening directly on the platform where you post content—either your blog, vlog, website, or whatever else you’ve set up as your primary online home. Content actions are things like

  • Comments: How many comments do you get per post? How many reader-to-reader comments are you getting? When I’m scouting blogs or websites it gets me excited to see a conversation between readers happening in the comment section–this means there’s a strong, tight-knit community there.
  • Shares: How many shares are you getting per post? This is a sure sign that readers think your content is fun and interesting enough to share it with other people they know.

Email Actions: These are any interactions on content that is reaching your readers through an email, whether it’s your latest blog post or a specialized campaign.

  • Open Rate: What is your open rate per email? How does it relate to your industry average? Many bloggers have tens of thousands of readers on their email list but abysmal open rates. This is a challenge, but also an opportunity: how can you make your work more helpful and more can’t-miss for your readers?
  • Clicks: How many clicks are you getting per email? Are you above or below your industry average?

Social Channel Actions: These are any actions taking place on your social media channels. (Here’s more on why I think these are the 5 most important social media channels for building your platform.)

  • Facebook: On Facebook, you’re measuring likes, shares, and comments for each post. Are you receiving more of these interactions than other writers in your category who have followings of a similar size?
  • Twitter: Here you’re looking for retweets, favorites, replies, or mentions. Which tweets are most helpful and most appreciated by your followers? Focus on crafting more of those.
  • Pinterest: The Pinterest feed is fueled by repins and clickthroughs, but likes, comments, and shares are also signs of engagement.
  • Instagram: Again, likes and comments are the most common metric of engagement, but shares (in the form of followers tagging their own friends in a comment) are also a sign that people love your post enough to show it to a friend.

In reality, engagement metrics are not nearly as complex as they seem. They’re simply a measure of how the real-life human on the other side of the screen is interacting with your content. Which is why creating content (this used to be called just writing words—ha!) that actually entertains, inspires, and educates others is the foundation of building a platform. Measuring engagement is simply a way of seeing if the people on the other end of your words are being helped, or if they’re just doodling a giraffe.

For more on how to increase these engagement metrics with a simple 2-step strategy, take a look at this free printable!

3 thoughts on “How to Measure Engagement and Why It Matters for Your Platform

  1. I’m a fan of your blog, and have been for a little while now. So I was interested enough to read this particular post twice. A few thoughts came to mind.
    You make a good point that comments are a good measure of interaction, but how do you encourage dialogue? You can say, “I’d be glad to hear what you think” until you’re purple, but most folks can’t be bothered to leave a comment. As well, if new eyeballs aren’t seeing your content, there won’t be much interaction.
    Fun and interesting content is relative. I think the exploration and potential settlement of Mars is fascinating, but not everyone does. It can be a challenge to find content to post in an authentic way that others want to talk about.
    I would love to start up an email list but right now, my body of work consists of short fiction. what do I have to offer readers? I don’t have a complete novella, or chapter from an upcoming novel to tempts folks with. Put another way, why would they want to sign up for my email list?
    Your posts always make me think, so I’m not looking for easy answers necessarily, but sometimes it seems like I’m writing away in obscurity out here with no idea how to stand out.
    Thanks for your wisdom, keep being awesome!

    1. I completely hear what you’re saying–it’s a struggle most writers and bloggers face! I don’t think anyone has it completely figured out, but I see it as a two-part problem: First, how do you drive eyeballs to your content, and second, how do you encourage interaction from those people? As for getting readers, I’d start with the question of who your audience is and how you can write things that would interest them (and I know a lot of people who find the exploration of Mars fascinating–just look at the massive success of THE MARTIAN!), and from there, focusing on getting your content to where they already are (sharing it in the most relevant social media communities).

      As for interaction, a lot of my top blogging authors have noticed a decline in comments online but an increase in email interaction from their readers. I think some people prefer the more private communication via email, but hey, that still counts as interaction! 🙂

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