Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

Before you spit up your coffee, hear me out. Because I think there’s a trend in the making here.

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

My thinking is based on three mini-trends and observations over the last six months:

Brand increasingly aren’t even interested in true engagement

Over the last year, I’ve done a number of audits for different clients. One trend I noticed popping up over and over: brands and organizations just aren’t that interested in “engaging” with their key audiences on social channels. They’re not. Oh sure, the Walmarts, Targets and Microsofts of the world are. But, the lion’s share of the brands I’ve researched and looked at for client work and for this blog are not. They just aren’t. Allow me to pick on Macy’s for a moment. Just take this recent post:

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

Now, let’s look at the comment stream:

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

And:

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

And:

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

Lots of opportunities for Macy’s to engage in those streams, no? Yet we don’t see a single response. That’s par for the course with today’s modern brand on social media. Again, not all brands are taking this approach, but an increasing number are.

What’s more, this is really what “engagement” looks like in 2019 when it comes to social media marketing for brands:

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

Look familiar? It should. Because customer service is something almost every brand worth its salt is doing on Twitter and Facebook. But, my question is this: Is this true engagement in 2019? Responded to customer rants on social media with templated responses? That’s “engaging” with our key audiences? I don’t see it that way. This is customer service. Nothing more. Let’s call it what it is and stop labeling this “engagement.”

Engagement rates on the biggest platforms are plummeting

In case you haven’t heard, Facebook is having an engagement problem. In other words: Engagement levels are falling off. Like “falling off the face of the world” falling off. Case in point:

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

Want first-hand proof? Let’s look at Under Armour. Big brand, right? Massive resources. Big budgets. Here’s a recent post.

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

Allow me to do the math: 272 engagements; 10,233,733 followers; that translates to a .0000265 engagement rate. Folks, that’s not great. In fact, I would argue that’s a complete waste of UA’s resources.

Another example: Dunkin. One of the absolute darlings of the social media marketing world. Surely, they are seeing outstanding engagement on Facebook!

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?

Again, I’ll do the math for you: 18 engagements; 15,561,798 followers; that translates into a .0000011 engagement rate. That’s beyond hideous and embarrassing.

Where does that leave us? Not in a good spot folks. Not in a good spot at all.

#3: Engagements are starting to become fluffy

I think we could all agree likes, comments, shares, retweets are the basis for “engagement” on the social web. Likes are probably on the softer side of the equation, while shares are the holy grail of engagements for most brands. A good comment has solid value as well. But, many brands include the fluffiest of fluffy metrics as “engagements”–the video view. Why do I say these are fluffy? Well, to start, they count any view as anyone who’s watched a video on Facebook for three seconds. Think about that for a minute and tell me how “engaging” that is. Others count “clicks” as engagement. These are even more ridiculous counting basically any kind of click on the post or ad. Point is: By including clicks and video views and other fluffy metrics like them, “engagements” are losing their luster. It’s only a matter of time before CMOs and other higher-ups start to figure this out.

These are all reasons why I believe 2019 will be the year engagements start to fall out of favor as a KPI with brands.

What can you do to prepare for this trend? A few things come to mind:

  • Evaluate your social media KPIs for 2019—do they still make sense? Is engagement a part of that mix? If the answer is “no” THAT’S OK!
  • Define engagement more succinctly—is it all about customer service? Are video view metrics inflating your results?
  • Consider what you can do to capture more lead-focused metrics—actions on site, e-newsletter signups from social, lead form completions.

Is 2019 the Year Brands Move Away From Engagement As a KPI?


My Dad was a Creative Director all his life. I spent my youth working in the agency, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. All those experiences made me into a thinker, dreamer and doer that specializes in integrated branding, marketing, digital and public relations services. I feel my key value to clients is the ability to turn creative concepts into analytically driven marketing plans and tools with greater stopping power & relevance, leading to greater results.

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January 24, 2021

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