Reach or engagement – what’s more important?

  • Voices
  • April 15, 2019
  • David Bowes
Reach or engagement – what’s more important?


Reach in social media terms is how many eyeballs you get your message in front of and is often described as impressions or video views depending on the social platform or post type.

There is a lot of supporting marketing science (Professor Byron Sharp is a strong advocate) around the importance of having a strong, and consistent presence compared to your competitors in your market.

In TV land it is measured by ‘TARPs’ (target audience rating point) with a corresponding description of ‘percentage of share of voice’. This measurement is driven by your advertising spend. Similarly, in social media reach is driven by media investment and plays an important role in driving brand awareness. However, on the downside, reach doesn’t measure an actual outcome.


In social media, the term engagement is often used loosely. Zavy measures engagement as the responses that people proactively make on social media content. To contextualise, for Facebook this includes likes/reactions, shares and comments – also taking into account the sentiment of these comments.

Zavy’s ROI in social media study uncovered that the deeper the engagement, the stronger the relationship to sales. In fact, almost 90 percent of the relationship to sales growth from engagements came from shares and comments. 

While reach is driven by marketing investment, engagement relies on the quality of the content and indicates the efficiency and effectiveness of that content. If you're getting responses quickly, your audience is engaging with your content and reacting in an emotive way, you've created a quality piece of content.

Great social content, like any strong performing marketing creative, evokes a deeper emotional response and in-turn brand memory. Shares are social media’s equivalent of the Net Promoter Score – a brand health metric based on advocacy for a brand – or the likelihood that someone is willing to recommend a brand to a friend or colleague. Having someone endorse a brand has a far greater impact than straight advertising alone.

Shares also create ‘earned media’ – the value of the advertising if the organisation had to pay for it, and given it comes directly from a known connection it has far greater impact than straight advertising. A recent example of strong engagement is Kiwi Bank’s ‘I Am Hope’ campaign. With over 24,000 shares and the average New Zealander having 128 friends, that has the multiplier effect of getting in front of over 3 million people – organically! Brand sentiment soared to a net positive sentiment of 68 percentage and created a huge influx of over 7000 new followers on Facebook.

The clear winner?

Both reach and engagement naturally have a connection to one another, and play an important part in winning in social media. Reach plays a role in creating presence for a brand, whereas leveraging that presence and maximising the impact of it is achieved by creating strong engagement. Generating and measuring success based on engaging content should be the key focus.

Marketing budgets are finite and using funds more effectively to create greater MROI rather than just spending more should be the priority. Given engagements have a greater relationship to brand growth this should be your first port of call.

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