Analytics are important, but personal engagement is key

Numbers, numbers and more numbers. They are critically important in analyzing the effectiveness of social media and other online communication, but are merely one tool among many, and often are used by professionals without keeping the bigger picture in mind.

This is one of the central messages of Steven Vrooman, professor and chair of communication and director of general education at Texas Lutheran University.

“We tend to assess via numbers, metrics, because they are easy to count,” he writes on his website. “They are easy to manage into self-evals and client reports. But SEO is about getting eyeballs, not keeping them. One real conversation on Twitter is worth 1,000 likes. And in the educational realm, engagement trumps recall every time.”

Vrooman emphasizes that relationships are more important than information and engagement is more important than reach.

“This is what unites my teaching, keynote speaking, writing, podcasting and consulting,” he writes. “Audience matters. They are people, not targets or levers, and we need to treat them that way.”

A Call for Reflection

Vrooman feels that a more reflective approach is needed.

“We need more posts, more pictures, more time, more content—and so, we are obsessed with tactics,” he writes. “We devour blog posts telling us which half-hour of the day to post to get views. But if we stop for a bit and act like we have nothing to do, we can think strategy. We can think connection. We can think bigger than our feed, which seems, at times, like it is really feeding on us instead of the other way around.”

These were some of Vrooman’s main themes in his presentation, “Beyond Post Analytics: A Social Media Strategy for Engagement and Connection,” at International Association of Exhibition and Events (IAEE) Expo! Expo! in San Antonio in November.

“Analytics tell you what tactics work best at any given time, but don’t tell you what you need to do,” he said. “How do we know what’s good and what’s valuable?”

He contends that cultivating reader engagement is key.

“Most of what we’re doing is wrong,” he said. “Most human communication isn’t information: It’s relational. But most of what we’re posting isn’t engaging and doesn’t make people want to read more. We have to strategize how to connect to people in a deeper way.

“Make your posts engaging and sharable. Every one of them should be ad-worthy—good enough that you would pay to see it.”

IAEE Expo! Expo! 2017

Vrooman’s presentation was one of more than 70 at IAEE Expo! Expo! 2017. And speaking of numbers, they suggest that the event was a resounding success. The annual gathering drew 1,959 participants, including 274 exhibitors, and the Humanity Rocks celebration raised $15,000 for Boysville, a children’s home and shelter in the Alamo City that helps children affected by abuse, neglect or poverty.

IAEE Expo! Expo! also provided San Antonio with a golden opportunity to show off the convention center, which boasts 514,000 sq. ft. of continguous exhibit space and 86,500 sq. ft. of column-free multipurpose space.

“Hosting IAEE Expo! Expo! was a priceless opportunity to showcase our city to executives and planners from around the world,” says Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio. “Many attendees were able to see the $325 million expansion of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center for the first time, and with so much forward momentum across the city and San Antonio’s Tricenntenial Celebration in 2018, it was the ideal time to share our beautiful city with these key industry influencers.”

The event also provided an opportunity to highlight the city’s excellent hotels, superb restaurants and unique attractions, including the River Walk, and the Alamo and other missions.

“It allowed attendees to experience the hospitality, culture, innovation and tradition that make San Antonio a premier meeting destination,” Matej says. “That type of exposure is invaluable, and we believe it will have a lasting positive impact on our city for years to come as meeting planners choose their destinations for future events.”