August 1, 2019
Understanding engagement on social media
Engagement is a term in social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, that indicates that people are making comments. And many people who post on social media determine how successful they are based on that engagement. I disagree, and I'd like to explain why I feel that way.
First of all, let's start with the lack of any feeling that anyone is looking at your stuff. There's often a feeling when you post something "is anybody out there?". In public speaking, you could say, "I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing", but not on the web. There's a silence there that you don't experience in front of a group IRL (In Real Life).
I've never been a public speaker, but I've been a teacher, and I've conducted training sessions, mostly in computer graphics. And in real life there's immediate feedback: I can see the audience. If they're talking to each other, or reading something, I can tell immediately if my presentation isn't engaging them. If they ask questions, that's fine, but I found as I got better and better at my presentations there were less questions. Over time I learned to answer the questions that I anticipated. So my engagement dropped. Other than people thanking me when the session was over, or asking where the bathrooms were, I really didn't hear much from them. So I sought attention, but not engagement - not the way that it's described in social media, with comments.
I still feel that way. I've been writing blogs like this for many years and I really expect no comments. I have no idea if people are agreeing or disagreeing with me, or anything. I have a counter built in so I can see how many times the post is viewed, but that information hasn't been accurate for many years because of the number of robots visiting, and also people who visit blogs just to post spam (that's quite a big industry!).
Many people measure their success on social media by engagement and they intentionally write things to provoke. So if someone brags to me about having very high engagement, I become suspicious. Maybe they're popular, but maybe they're just annoying people who want to shout back at them. Public speakers don't measure their success by how many hecklers there are in the audience!
I'm aware of the comments that my social media stuff can get, and I watch them carefully. The spam I zap right away, and if someone seems to be reacting to something that I've said which is kinda stupid, I make a note not to be so stupid in the future. And yes, I've said some dumb things in my day, and have listened to a comment correcting me.
There's no need to comment on this blog post. You can applaud if you want to, or give me a hearty laugh, but I can't hear you. I'm just glad you're here.
Posted by Brad Hall