Should You Chase Engagement Or Chase Value From A Community? (it’s complicated)

The engagement trap is very real, it’s very dangerous, and most of us are caught in it.

But engagement itself isn’t bad. The problem is when:

a) You align your efforts to drive the most engagement.

b) Engagement is all your colleagues understand about building community.

In a perfect world, you would ignore engagement metrics entirely and focus on the outcomes of this engagement (i.e. if engagement drives more loyalty, satisfaction, leads, search traffic etc…you would measure those things instead of engagement).

But often you can’t easily do this.

Sometimes you can’t get the data you need. Other times, no-one seems clear what the goal of the community should be. And, most often, someone senior just wants to have a big active community at the moment for a reason even they struggle to explain.

You can push back a little, but pushing too hard to be measured by outcomes can create more value than it solves.

This happens often in our consultancy work too. The solution is to build your boss/client’s wishes into a longer-term strategic roadmap for your community.

If everyone understands driving engagement is part of a stepping stone to driving clear results, you can avoid the engagement trap.

In practice, this usually means you create a 6 to a 24-month roadmap with goals to hit such as:

  • Months 0 to 6: Reach a critical mass of activity
  • Months 6 to 12: Drive up engagement.
  • Months 12 to 24: Align members behaviors to most valuable actions.

(use this guide to help you with the exact metrics).

Each of these will also need its own strategic plan.

Now you have engagement as part of a longer-term process to driving results. You know exactly how much engagement you need to move to the next phase. Better yet, everyone can get on board and track progress.

Chasing engagement or chasing value doesn’t have to be two mutually exclusive options.


  1. tamara Parris says:

    I have learned by focusing on value, then engagement comes naturally.

    Like this conversation - you have struck a cord.

    How many times in a meeting do you hear if we have content, content oh… quality content that will get engagement. Then … nothing happens and themembers show no interest.

    Why? because many do not want to do the heavy lifting involved.

    The heavy lifting…

    1. Collect insights and ideas from a dozen or so members - yes actually spend some quality discussion time with them talking… more than once a year.
    2. Ask the larger group about 4 - 5 most mentioned ideas and suggestion by the smaller groups
    3. poll the larger group so your team can learn what to focus on that THEY value
    4. collect feedback from your online events and posts regarding quality and interest,
    5. ask again what members would like, evaluate and keep moving in the direction of the collective interest.

    your reward will be the most deepest and value add engagement… members interacting, sharing in quality conversations with like minded people!

  2. Joel Rangelle says:

    I was reading a topic from a large webmaster community where one webmaster said, “get your members talking about anything. It doesn’t matter, just get them talking.”

    That’s ridiculous.

    Engagement for the sake of engagement is useless fluff that is not aligned with anything that matters to your members or the organization. I agree that having some fluff engagement is okay, just like steak tastes better with marble. But chasing engagement is taking your eyes off from the primary goal. Engagement is not an end unto itself; it’s a means to an end.

    The way that I personally view it is that I hold myself accountable to the value. That’s the ultimately measuring stick in my long-run strategic plan. How I accomplish that value, however, involves various forms of engagement.

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