Reach and Engagement: Making the Most of Social Media Marketing

“Reach” and “engagement” are the two main metrics that companies typically track with social media marketing.

But the critical question that most still need to answer is how to optimize their efforts and marketing dollars between these two measurements.

While it is often thought that reach and engagement are equally important, ideal optimization between the two depends on the overall goals of the business. The following piece will explore both metrics, look at their value and discuss how they can best be optimized.

reach and engagementWhat is reach?

Reach is a measure of the range of influence of any content – it is the measurement of how content is spread across various social media channels. At a very basic level, it can be thought of as the number of eyeballs your content is getting. On Facebook, for example, “total reach” is the number of people that have seen your post.

Your post reaches someone when it’s shown in the News Feed. Total reach can be broken down as organic, viral and paid. ‘Organic reach’ is the number of unique people who saw your post on their feed. “Viral reach” is the number of unique people who saw your post from a story published by a friend, while “paid reach” is the number of unique people who saw your post through an ad.

What is engagement?

Engagement measures the actions taken by users on the posts. Continuing with the Facebook example, engagement is measured as the number of times your post is liked, shared or commented on. A highly engaging post leads to increased activity and by definition increased viral reach. Engagement, as expected, is largely driven by the content of posts and the strategy of a company’s marketing teams. It is achieved over time as marketing efforts build a dynamic community where consumers actively share content and stories.

It is extremely critical for companies to focus on engagement, because ultimately your consumers are your best brand ambassadors. Further, with the proliferation of digital advertising, studies have shown that people trust recommendations from friends more than from companies themselves. Hence, engagement becomes a critical component of a successful social media marketing strategy.

So, should you reach? Or should you engage?

Now that we know that both reach and engagement are critical components, the question that arises is, which is the best strategy for companies to follow? Increased reach naturally leads to increased awareness, while increased engagement typically leads to building a strong community around your brand.

Of course, it makes perfect sense for a company to want to extend its reach and touch as many viewers and consumers as possible with its messages. At the end of the day, however, if the intended recipients are ignoring whatever message is sent their way, it loses its effect and no value is gained for the company. The key is to promote engagement and get followers actively involved. While reach is important as a building block, engagement is a better measure of whether or not a given message is resonating and helping build a brand community. Reach is not the solution to building a loyal consumer base. In the long run, companies would be better served by focusing on boosting engagement success.

Improving engagement

When it comes to increasing engagement over social media channels, content is king. It’s a simple concept, really: Quality content encourages viewers to take note, consume information and share feedback. Additionally, engagement metrics are typically higher in cases where consumers are invited to be part of a community – such as tagging a photo, asking for feedback, participating in contests, etc. Q&A’s, polls and posts with calls to actions have also proven to produce high engagement. Including a statement or pointing to specific content in shared articles can also help drive engagement.

Some studies suggest that users are more likely to share content that is less promotional and more personal/emotional. Therefore, brands need to look for content inspiration beyond the products they’re selling and should create or curate content that is inspiring, beautiful and useful, versus focusing on content that is strictly self-promotional.

Any effort to increase engagement is going to be beneficial in the long run as companies work to leverage social media and build a loyal base of customers who are passionate about their brand and can spread positive word of mouth through their social networks. Reach is effective for creating awareness and increasing the consumer base, but unless companies are able to convert these new users into engaged users, their efforts will not be sustainable or beneficial.


Divya Balakrishnan1This article was co-authored with Divya Balakrishnan, Engagement Manager at LatentView Analytics, where she is responsible for the delivery and growth of key client engagements. She handles multiple research areas around Social Media Analytics, Strategy Consulting, Consumer Intelligence, Campaign Analytics, Web Analytics and Survey Analytics, among others.


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Subramanian Ramachandran

Subramanian Ramachandran

Director of Client Services, LatentView Analytics

Subramanian is Director of Client Services at LatentView Analytics. He is an experienced professional with expertise across a variety of domains (Engineering Design, Manufacturing, Finance and Technology). His current analytics focus is on understanding, measuring and optimizing marketing programs and initiatives and as such spans the entire spectrum of analytics needs from Reporting to Analysis to Advanced Analytics.

His professional focus has been on building and leading teams in providing key insights and critical analytics support across diverse areas including Social, Survey Analytics, Market Research, Media Effectiveness and Equity Research

March 26, 2015

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