The Engagement Trap

Have you found yourself sucked into The Engagement Trap?

The Engagement Trap is the exhausting race to drive higher engagement metrics.

If you’re reporting the number of active members or posts, you’re in the trap. It’s a trap because you’re setting expectations you can’t sustain. It’s also damaging for everybody.

The best way to drive more engagement is to be more entertaining, more controversial, and develop more novel ideas. But fighting for attention is a losers’ game and the novelty wears off quickly. Eventually, you’re going to get stuck.

It’s tough to compete against bottom-feeders for attention, no matter how low you go.

You’re not in the advertising business. Don’t use tools designed to measure advertising to measure communities. Community organizers don’t measure their work by the number of people who chat on the street, they measure impacts like reduction in crime, improved school graduation rates, self-reported levels of satisfaction etc…

Every time you report engagement metrics, you’re harming your members and yourself. People talking isn’t innately helpful, they can do that anywhere. In your community they should be guided to do things that matter. You don’t want members to casually chat. You want members to advocate, lead, learn, innovate, educate, and support one another.

You’re facing unrelenting pressure today to follow the herd into the engagement trap. Even your boss wants higher engagement metrics. Please don’t do it. You can’t win playing that game.

Aim higher and work harder. Work with your boss to identify what behaviors really matter and work tirelessly every day to motivate members to perform those behaviors. Stop reporting the number of members and activity.

You will find this work is far more fun (and important) than the exhausting race to boost engagement.

This is a career decision.

Do you want to keep trying new ideas to get the engagement metrics up?

Or do you want to profoundly and strategically shape how your organization should maximize the support and value it gives and gets from your audience?


  1. Sarah Hawk says:

    I’m curious about this, because we tracked these metrics when I managed this community.
    I considered them a failsafe, but they def felt like a trap.

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