Which Would You Rather Have: Views or Engagement?

By Seth Silver 

A colleague of mine just got 250,000 views on a video he posted on social media, and he expressed disappointment. At first, I thought he was just displaying some false modesty, but he convinced me otherwise. 

“Yeah, a lot of people saw it, but it barely had an impact on anyone. I don’t want eyeballs; I want hearts and minds,” he said.

He was talking about engagement, which is defined as Likes, Comments, and Shares. One quick rule of thumb is that if you add up these three and divide by total views, you get a percentage. My colleague thinks 10% or more equals high engagement; his “big” post only got about 2% engagement or one-fifth of his goal.

This is a tricky path to walk. Let’s do a little math…

250,000 views X 2% engagement = 5,000 engaged people

25,000 views X 10% engagement = 2,500 engaged people

You can only take this engagement argument so far because at some point you still need to generate views. In the above example, one-tenth the views and five times the engagement only results in half as many engaged people.

This is a better outcome:

50,000 views X 20% engagement = 10,000 engaged people

I’m trying to show you that to be successful with video content on social media; you need both views and engagement. It’s typically unrealistic to hope for huge viewership and very high engagement, but my last example is plausible: average viewership and high engagement.

In many cases, the social media videos in the middle are the ones with the best results. They get shared widely, but not as widely as those lowest common denominator posts.

For example, this video for Rude by the band Magic! Has generated 1.2 billion (yes, Billion) views… but I’d argue that Magic! still isn’t that popular of a band unless you are ages 18-24. 

There are many ways to generate a lot of views, and most of them involve tactics that weaken rather than support your brand. For example, if you give away free products or cut your prices drastically, you can get a lot of attention. But such tactics teach your customers to wait for sales and will ultimately undercut your profit margins.

On the other hand, if you build shares around genuine human emotions and circumstances - which is harder, I admit - you can generate very high engagement and make people feel more connected to your brand.

When you break down engagement, it really means: this is something I care about. The highest compliment is when a person shares what you shared, and that’s the goal you ought to pursue.

Seth Silver is Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Social Control, an LA-based social media agency and creative content powerhouse.