By the numbers: engaging your online community

Many of us in the digital space are confessed analytics junkies. In and of itself, checking your numbers isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can develop into a problem when you’re hitting “refresh” every four minutes to see whether anyone new has signed up for your email list. (Don’t lie, we’ve all done it!)

Being a good data reader also depends upon what numbers you’re looking at. For example: when you check your numbers, are you evaluating how many people follow you, or are you scoring and evaluating the quality of conversation that you’re having with your followers?

Having high numbers of followers often gets interpreted as a high degree of brand awareness. This interpretation isn’t entirely wrong, excepting when that data often gets confused for brand engagement. When it comes to the size of your social media communities, the numbers are often less about how big of an audience your brand has, and more about the vanity of those who keep a watch on it. The reality is, no one cares how many likes your Facebook page has if there’s no conversation. It doesn’t matter how many people are on your email list if none of them open it.

When you’re looking at your online marketing efforts, make sure that you’re focusing on quality engagement – conversations, likes, shares, and comments that matter to your audience.

Of course, this raises a bigger and much more difficult question: what are the best ways to engage your community? One would think that, with all of the “social media experts,” digital agencies, and opinionated internet denizens out there, there would be a given answer to this by now.

In truth, the reasons we still ask about engagement basically comes down to two points. One: every community is just different enough that each is likely to respond the same tactics in different ways. Two: social media and digital marketing continues to iterate and evolve so quickly that what works today may not work tomorrow.

We’re all suffering from the saturation of brands trying to promote themselves online. Indeed, it’s practically the only way most tech and SaaS companies market (with good reason). Though we can spend endless time debating the value of pay-to-play online advertising, or talking about silver bullets and recipes for virality, ultimately what matters most is that you’re solving a problem that needs a solution, and that you’re responsive to the ever-changing nature of the digital landscape.


Paul Arterburn is a Co-founder and the Head of Product at Brandfolder, a Techstars Boulder 2013 company. In this capacity, Paul is responsible for overall product vision and execution. This includes managing the development and design processes, constructing and executing the product roadmap, and deploying code daily. Paul is nearing the magic 10,000 hour mark of coding through the dedication of learning 15 different coding languages over the past 15 years. Daring and scrappy, Paul is ready to leave the Web better than he found it: this is what drove him to found Brandfolder. Me in 3: • Movies people can’t believe I don’t like: Star Trek and Star Wars. • My secret talent: As a songwriter my first songs at age 16 were about all girls, and my latest about just one - my fiancé. • My first invention: A wrestling move dubbed 'The Bob Dole' still used across the state of Nebraska today.

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