Much has been written about the decline of social media engagement over the past several years. As Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of BIZCATALYST 360°, I along with my remarkable Editorial Team are not only active purveyors of content (16,000+ Articles published & shared) but active participants in virtually every popular social media channel out there. And yes, we’ve witnessed firsthand the decline in engagement. Along the way we’ve also witnessed major changes amongst key players in the social media marketplace, including the rise in websites that shutter their comment sections, effectively muzzling their own on-site communities.
The NPR Approach
Of particular note was the decision by NPR (National Public Radio) to cease accepting Comments across their Website (after 8 years), as announced a few years back on their Website:
“After much experimentation and discussion, we’ve concluded that the comment sections on NPR.org stories are not providing a useful experience for the vast majority of our users. In order to prioritize and strengthen other ways of building community and engagement with our audience, we will discontinue story-page comments on NPR.org on August 23.” See their entire published Article here: Beyond Comments: Finding Better Ways To Connect With You
It’s worth mentioning (perhaps in a bizarre twist) that the above Article generated more than 3,400 Comments! Then came their follow-up Article just one week later (Mailbag: Saying Goodbye To Comments) highlighting their audience reaction the shutting down of Comments (an overwhelmingly negative reaction):
“One recurring theme stood out: Many, many listeners said that they never left comments themselves, but read them regularly. NPR officials had cited the relatively small number of actual commenters, compared to users of the website, as one reason for discontinuing website comments.”
Sara Goo, NPR’s deputy managing editor for digital, wrote, “The response has been interesting in that most of our audience has reached the same conclusion that we did — disappointment.” She added, “We all so badly want, philosophically, for our Website to be a public square of smart ideas and commentary and interaction with us and with each other. A forum of diverse views. But the data makes clear it just wasn’t that. It is clear that the challenge for us going forward is to continue to search for better solutions and experiment with new ways to try to find what can come closer to accomplishing that.”
One NPR Reader’s noteworthy reaction: “They’re getting rid of a great community of discussion. It’s the best forum I’ve known, with people from all walks of life discussing the news with a moderate amount of intelligence and a healthy dose of wit. I’m pretty upset. After the comments go, I won’t visit NPR much anymore. There’s not much content compared to other sites. It was the discussion that kept me coming back.”
NPR RATIONALE: As mentioned in their original announcement referenced at the opening of this Article, NPR did some math earlier this summer. The site has 33 million users. In July there were 491,000 comments, from only 19,400 commenters. According to their Ombudsman, those comments weren’t necessarily representative of the NPR audience.
As an aside, Some of the other big operations to discontinue comments include Reuters, Popular Science, The Week and the sports site USA Today FTW.
Each social media network defines engagement a little bit differently based on the features and functionality of their platform. For example;
- Facebook defines engagement as likes, comments, and shares.
- Twitter defines engagement as @replies, retweets and mentions.
- LinkedIn defines engagement as the number of interactions on a post plus the clicks and followers acquired divided by the number of impressions.
“Engagement may also be defined as “communicating well enough that the audience pays attention.”
In the simplest terms, engagement is the interaction between people and brands on social media networks. Depending on which end of the spectrum you reside, engagement may also be defined as “communicating well enough that the audience pays attention.”
This definition shows the importance of why businesses need to create valuable content for their social community and present it in a way that works for that social network. In simpler terms, engagement is a two-way conversation. That’s one of the great benefits of social media; consumers can have a relationship with their favorite brand, business or store and have a two-way conversation.
John Philpin, one of our many distinguished Columnists authored a great 2-Part Series some time ago focused entirely on the topic of Engagement. Take a break and read John’s topical perspectives here:
While NPR may not be a pure “apples to apples” comparison with our 31 Linkedin Groups (125,000+ Members) and/or our Site, the fact remains that if they can’t make engagement work with 33 million users, who are we kidding? Our first-hand experience across LinkedIn and other social media networks tends to parallel the NPR conclusion, that is; a relatively small nucleus of people are doing all the commenting/engagement.
“It doesn’t mean the content isn’t valued or being read – simply that folks aren’t taking the time to engage.”
Our independent research suggests that much of the challenge is one of social media content “overload” coupled with a decline in the quality of content. The mere avalanche of (un-edited) content pouring into the LinkedIn Pulse Channel since they opened the floodgates for anyone and everyone to publish (a sad departure from their original 100 Influencers strategy) is a good example. According to one estimate, the average monthly number of articles shared to LinkedIn has soared from 500,000 to over 3 million. As volumes soared, the quality of content suffered and consequently the level of engagement.
Many of our Group Owner colleagues have simply shut-down their Groups and abandoned the platform, as noted within The LinkedIn Groups Have Become Ghost Towns. Within this particular Article is a great question: “What Will It Take To Revive LinkedIn Groups?” The Author’s response: “The first step in bringing people back to the groups is to let them know that their voices are important. The route to an enriching group experience begins with each member contributing some measure of value. Enhancing one’s presence on LinkedIn is not tied to overt promotion or status-seeking behaviors; rather, by supporting others. and feeling part of a community that places a premium on quality intellectual exchange.”
All things considered, it seems to us that the solution begins and ends with a return to quality content sharing, diligent moderation (keeping the SPAM out) and of course, that magic word: ENGAGEMENT…
STEP UP TO OUR SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT CHALLENGE
If you enjoy our content, both across our Site and across our Linkedin Groups, help us distinguish our social media trends from the rest!
✅ JOIN our Linkedin & Facebook Groups HERE
✅ SHARE at least ONE (1) Article from our Site in each Group every Weekday.
✅ LIKE AND COMMENT on at least ONE (1) Discussion within our Groups every Weekday.
✅ SHARE this Article now aross all of your Social Media Channels
THANKS FOR ENGAGING!