What Is Social Media Engagement? Likes, Shares, and Comments

Engagement on social media goes far beyond likes

Man with sunglasses smiles and holds a paper mache Instagram heart button, background of graphic is a blank mobile phone screen and a wireless keyboard

How do you interact with people on social media? There are many ways to engage with posts on social media. This article is about how to show you care on social media.

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I’m Jennifer van Alstyne (@HigherEdPR). Welcome to The Social Academic blog where I write about managing your online presence. Professors and researchers like you are using social media and websites to talk about their work.

In this blog post, learn about how to show you care on social media by engaging with what people post.

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9 ways to show you care on social media

Photo of Jennifer van Alstyne @HigherEdPR

When most people think about interaction on social media, they think about the like button. Did you know there are better ways to engage with posts you enjoy?

I want you to know about some ways to interact with posts on social media you may not have thought of.

  • Like
  • Comment
  • Share
  • Direct message
  • Profile visit
  • Link click
  • Visit your website
  • View details
  • Follow


What is a like on social media? A like is the most common type of engagement on social media. When you

  • Like a Facebook post
  • Like a tweet
  • Heart an Instagram post

you let people know you liked the post.

Liking a post on social media can show you

  • Enjoyed the content of the post
  • Agree with the sentiment of the post
  • Support the poster

It’s unclear which of these a like means. Because of that, other ways to interact with posts may be more effective.

Instagram is testing the option to hide how many likes appear on the posts you see on their platform. I turned this setting on because I don’t want to engage with posts because they have a lot of likes. I want to engage with posts that share things I’m interested in.


What is a comment or reply on social media? Commenting on a social media post is the best way to engage. It shows you read what the poster said. And, that you cared enough to respond.

Never commented on a post before? You’re not alone. I encourage you to try replying to a tweet or other social media post today!

Your comment can be short, like “Congratulations!” It can also be a more thoughtful response.


What is a share on social media? Sharing is a great way to let your social media connections know you care about a post.

You can share a social media post that has permission set to public. Some social media posts are set to be seen only by certain audiences, and cannot be shared.

You can also share a post and include your own comment. On Twitter, this is called Retweet with a Comment. This is the best way to share because it also let’s people know

  • why you’re sharing
  • what you think about what you’re sharing

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Did you know that likes and retweets are endorsements on social media?

Direct message

What is a direct message on social media? Direct messages are a great way to communicate on social media. They can even be more effective than email.

A direct message (DM) is a private message on social media between you and the recipient. Some platforms allow group direct messages too. I use this when putting together YouTube lives with multiple guests.

Not everyone allows direct messages on social media. Social media platforms allow you to choose who you want to receive messages from. For instance, you may choose to allow messages only from people you follow.

Profile visit

What is a profile visit on social media? Not everyone thinks of a profile visit as a type of interaction, perhaps because it’s one that we can’t see.

Last month, my Twitter profile @HigherEdPR was visited 2,269 times (April 2021). The last time I introduced myself on social media, over 97 people viewed my profile.

You don’t need to know how many people visit yours – I wanted to share my numbers so you know that it’s a type of engagement that is happening. It’s a way you probably engage with some posts you see on social media. Viewing someone’s profile helps you learn more about them. And, it’s a great way to see if that person is someone you want to follow.

When people share a link in their social media post (i.e. a news article or their recent publication) you have the option to click that link.

Link click is a way to engage further with the content people share on social media.

Some social media platforms, like Instagram, don’t allow live links (clickable links) in their posts. So sharing links isn’t ideal for all social media platforms.

Visit your website

If you have a website or LinkedIn profile you should add that link to your social media profiles.

Visiting someone’s personal website is a great way to learn more about them. This often invites a deeper connection than just following someone on social media.

What should you include if you don’t have a personal website or LinkedIn profile? Other options include

  • faculty or staff profile
  • Academia.edu, ResearchGate, or Google Scholar profile
  • another social media platform (this works well if you’re on 2+ platforms but are most active on 1)

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View details

Some social media posts are longer than others. Not everyone who sees your social media post will read it. If you have a longer post, not everyone who reads your post will read the whole thing.

Don’t let that discourage you from writing longer social media posts. Both long and short posts can be highly effective on social media.

On some social media platforms, like Twitter, you can see how many people view the details of your post through the post analytics:

  • detail expands
  • media views

Most social media platforms don’t give you this information. You should be aware of it as a type of engagement though, because a lot of people don’t engage with posts multiple times. It’s possible that your longer social media post did better than you expected – it just didn’t get a lot of likes. Maybe it got people reading the whole post instead, and that’s pretty great!


Following people on social media is the best way to see posts they share again. Following someone online lets them know you want to see what they say. Only follow people who

  • you want to stay connected with
  • shares content you’re interested in seeing
  • don’t give you anxiety

You can follow someone on social media but mute their posts so they don’t show up in your timeline. This is a great way to stay connected with people even when you don’t love what they share online.

People sometimes take it personally when you don’t follow them back. But who you follow is about what you want to see every day. That means you should only follow the people whose posts you want to see regularly.

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The like button is overrated

Speech bubbles that say follow, like, and share against a wood board background

There are many ways to engage with people and the things they share on social media. The like is overrated even though it’s preferred by many.

Commenting is the better option.

When we want to stay connect with people long-term,

  • viewing their profile
  • sending a direct message
  • following them on social media

If you’re ready for a challenge, try only commenting on social media posts for a week. Replies and comments on social media help you

  • build connections
  • start conversations
  • reach new people

Want to learn more about social media for academics? Start my social media course today.

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Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
or learn more about the services she offers at https://theacademicdesigner.com

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