When social actions should be part of your engagement algo

Today I wrote a post on defining user engagement. I briefly touched on not incorporating user actions unrelated to your product’s core value when defining user engagement. For an example I used social actions and I think this deserves to be expanded upon.

I’m not against incorporating a social action into your engagement algo. In fact, I believe social actions can be key indicators that people are finding value in your app. However, there are different types of social actions and putting everything into a single bucket and calling it a KPI is probably a bad idea.

Forget about the world of apps, Twitter and Facebook for a second. Let’s use a real world example to illustrate 2 very different types of sharing.

I’ve got a business selling hammers. Sometimes people buy a hammer and are so excited about it that they tell their friends ‘hey, I just bought this hammer. I’m going to build so much with it. I can’t wait to get started!’. Another type of sharing might come 1-2 months down the line where the same user goes to their friends and says ‘Look at this great house I just built’ without ever mentioning the hammer specifically.

The first type of social engagement indicates that the user is reacting to your messaging. They believe that your product is going to solve their problem. The second type of social engagement suggests they are actually getting value from your tool.

Both types of social engagement are useful but don’t confuse a positive reaction to your messaging as a sign that your tool is actually working. Worse yet, don’t use it as a number to influence ongoing product decisions.