Engagement vs. Popularity

We’re inclined to define social media success in terms of followings and likes.

But what’s driving the revenue of successful small businesses and brands isn’t having a huge number of followers. It’s engagement with a core audience of brand believers. 


Engagement is entirely different than popularity.  We’re seeing more and more push toward community and authenticity. Small businesses and brands knock it out of the park when their customers and clients feel like they’re a part of the tribe. 


Think about your favorite brands or influencers. You like them because you identify with something they’re promoting. They’ve found a way to make you feel connected to either who they are, what they do, or both.


So how to brands earn a recurring customer? They make them feel like family.


Popularity can be bought (or bot??!). On the flip side, engagement can’t be won in dollars, but is priceless. It takes purpose and effort, and that’s where things seem intimidating.


Let’s look at an example of someone who does it well. 


I recently attended the gravel cycling event Land Run 100.  The owner of District Bicycles, Bobby Wintle began Land Run 100 in 2013 in a small little Oklahoma town. 121 riders came the first year. Little did he know by 2019 his race would sell out in 7 minutes with over 1700 registrants, putting Stillwater, OK on the map as one of the most coveted gravel courses in America. 


How he did it? He created an authentic experience for like-minded people who want to ride their bikes. But he saw the potential lying in his own backyard. 

He used what he had and what he believed in…then shared it with people.

  • These were his roads. 

  • He identifies with the landscape. 

  • Therefore what he promotes is genuine and authentic.

  • He shares that passion.

  • And it’s contagious.


On Instagram, Land Run 100 numbers would be considered a micro-following at just under 7k, but his brilliant hashtag #unlearnpavement resonates with gravel cyclists around the globe, having been used over 18k times in various countries. He started a whole movement and has created a network of people that now consider his event a staple on the gravel calendar worldwide.


If you’re stuck with how to engage, copy this process above. Engagement begins with defining what your passion is. What do you love? If you love what you’re doing, chances are you’ll share with the same level of authenticity as Bobby Wintle. 


Then figure out your target audience. Who would you consider to be like-minded? Who do you want to attract? 


Then gain some clarity on what it is you can offer them. You have an area of expertise that your target customer needs, or perhaps you’re a figure of authority in a specific field of interest. 


Balance what you share. Don’t just sell all the time. Tell your story. Share your experiences. Ask your audience to share theirs, too! Then every now and then, make them an offer on a product you love and tell them why you love it. Before you know it, these followers are marketing for you with consumer shares, because they love it too.