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Goodbye to likes: What should the new engagement metric be?

By Danielle Smith, Managing director

Communicator London


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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October 9, 2019 | 6 min read

Recently Instagram and Facebook (Australia only) have been experimenting with hiding the like count from everyone but the creator of the post, and this potential change has brands and creators questioning their social strategy.

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Social media began as a means to connect people and, with this move, Instagram hopes to provide users with a genuine connection once again. After all, likes have diminished in importance because our behaviours have changed, so it’s time for social channels to change too.

Firstly, likes are no longer needed to signal that your audience is into your content. They have always been key to measuring success, but we have already shifted away from likes as the primary metric. Measuring purely on likes is the lazy way to define engagement. A simple double tap means so many different things to different people – “I have seen your content”, “I like what you are saying”, “I agree with you”, the list goes on.

If you are a smart brand or content creator, you have already been quietly adapting your strategy and tactics in the background over the past few months. Using this time to see how the platforms and audience have evolved, while looking at the new engagement metric – attention.

Measuring attention is a more actionable way for your brand to measure engagement. It’s easier to show your love by liking a piece of content, but posting a comment is a much deeper engagement and gives you so much richer context and consumer insight.

However, it’s important to remember that people give attention on social media in many different ways. You need to look at all of the data holistically in order to reveal true insight into your audience and understand the impact of content.

Brands need to shift their thinking around what they measure and take a more active lead in developing meaningful metrics. Rather than measuring the newest fad and creating content on the back of that, they should be thinking about the role of their social media, while creating and measuring content that is based on succeeding in that role.

We believe the best way to approach this is a focus on measuring attention.

This new era of attention is demonstrated in the rapid rise of Stories and in the way we talk about Stories analytics; gauging attention measurement with metrics such as:

  • Affinity with the brand - people are more likely to stay and watch a Story from start to end if it’s from a brand they trust, enjoy, and know it will provide value.
  • Video watch time - where we can see precisely how long people have watched and where they dropped off. In the past, a video might have received just likes, which tells us very little about whether or not someone stuck with our content till the end. It also tells us nothing about what they were or weren’t interested in.

How do we measure attention?

  • Referral traffic that can be tracked throughout the customer journey
  • e-Commerce via Instagram, Pinterest, and other social sites
  • Deep diving into a Feed
  • Profile visits: where did this audience come from and what action did they take when they got to your page?
  • Saves and forwards onto a friend: how valuable is your content really to your audience?
  • Intimate measurables like direct messages following content
  • In-bound posts: what is your audience saying about your brand?
  • Typical measurement of reshare, comment, clicks and followers

The list goes on. I would say that all these measurement tools combined provide a much richer context of engagement, wouldn’t you?

These opportunities to measure and gain insight mean you should be able to use this to create content that will stand out in this attention engagement era.

So how can brands take this forward?

  1. Focus on Quality, Depth and Purpose

Reach and impressions do not equal value. Often a small, but engaged audience is more valuable than a large, passive audience. Attention engagement with the right audience is what counts. It’s important to understand your audience and how they want to engage with you, and then deliver the content that will activate their interests.

  1. Connect with your audience

Conversations have never been more important, but you need to start them. This doesn’t have to be done the traditional way of just asking questions in your posts. Look at how your community manager can cultivate those relationships with your audience by engaging in two-way dialogue. If you are active, you will encourage your audience to be too. Sometimes insights are sparked by just one conversation.

  1. Measurement, measurement and more measurement

Social is quick, algorithms are consistently changing, and more than ever the audience is in charge of what they want to see and when they want to see it. Use your actionable insights on a more regular bases, don’t wait for your monthly or even quarterly reviews. Use all the tools available to you for a well-rounded picture of what your attention engagement is.

  1. Embrace the test and learn culture with Stories

Instagram users have proven their desire to engage with brands in this space and this is a perfect opportunity to test content and see what’s working.

Likes do not define your success and aren’t enough to get people to engage with and spend more time with your brand. Ultimately, the action that drives sales after seeing your content is success. The above guidance should help give you a more well-rounded picture of attention engagement and, ultimately, success. And when you get on board with focusing on attention, it can empower you to create your best content yet.


Content by The Drum Network member:

Communicator London

We’re Communicator, a clever content agency that uses the power of relationships to build brands.

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