Why Our Definition of Social Media Engagement and Interaction is Wrong

by Marcus Sheridan



This past week, as I often do while traveling, I was listening to Mitch Joel’s great podcast and his recent episode with Bob Hoffman of the Ad Contrarian. Always one to masterfully combine pessimism and years of rich experience when discussing marketing, Hoffman’s pessimistic outlook on such phrases as social media “engagement” and “interaction” not only gave me a good snicker, but also prompted this post.

Apparently, we like the word “Engagement”

If you look across the web and social media marketing realm, how often do you see the words “engagement” and “interaction” being thrown around? Frankly, the two have been so used and abused that I don’t know if anyone really “gets” their relevance any longer.

That being said,  let me ask you an important question , and please give it a second of thought before you simply read on:

How do you define “engagement” and “interaction” within your company’s marketing campaign?

Is it based on comments to your content?

Social media shares?

Someone calling your store or office?

Making a purchase?

These examples and more could fit your company’s definition of engagement I’m sure, but I’d submit another point.

Reading Is Interacting

Often times when I speak at conferences I’ll show audience members the incredible number of pages single individuals will read on my swimming pool website when in the process of researching a pool. Believe it or not, many of the customers that buy a swimming pool read at least 100 pages of the website before we ever even have the first sales appointment. (Note** I know this because I use HubSpot)

Some have even read over 500 pages.

Think about that for a second… 500 pages??!! Can you imagine reading 500 pages of any website???

Believe it or not, it’s becoming more and more common with our swimming pool customers. But not only that, it’s quite common with my marketing clients as well.

For example, most companies and brands that contact The Sales Lion for help have read my eBook before we even have our first conversation—which means they’ve already read over 250 pages of my content.

And would you say these folks are “engaged?” Would you submit they are ” interacting”, even though it’s not necessarily a “true conversation” such as are found within a Facebook page, tweet, or blog comment?.

Content Interaction vs. Social Interaction

I don’t know about you, but I choose “content interaction” over “social interaction” any day of the week. This may sound sacrilegious to some in this industry, but because great content (when read and absorbed) is literally the best sales tool in the world, why would anyone see it any other way?

Furthermore, how come so many, like the Ad Contrarian, do not see great web content in this same light? Why aren’t page views considered to be a social media interaction? And why aren’t companies targeting pages views (content marketing) as more important than total likes, friends, followers, shares, pins, or whatever else you can add to the list??

The Education Economy

To me, this entire conversation goes back to what I consider the “education economy.” In this day and age of information-driven consumers—brands, if they want to be great, must be master listeners, teachers, and content creators, which therefore leads to consumer engagement, interaction, and true advancement. Yes, this “engagement” may not be the kind that shows up in an Edgerank or Klout  Score, but is sure as heck leads to trust, branding, and sales.

And when all is said and done, do the rest of the metrics really matter?

Your Turn

I’ve got a few debatable questions to ask you my friends, and I’d love to here your answers: Where do you rank “content read” in your social media and marketing priorities? Do you consider it an “interaction” and as an “engagement?” Do you see it as more or less important than tweets, like, shares, etc? Why?


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