Posted 05.30.2024 by Josh Krakauer

Engagement Farming: Definition, Examples, and Tips to Avoid It

Engagement farming is making a comeback, and that's no bueno. Learn about this practice, and how to avoid it when pursuing genuine social media interactions.

Engagement farming is affecting how we interact on social media, and not exactly in a good way.

This practice involves cultivating interactions for the sake of metrics rather than meaningful connections, and represents a trade-off where authenticity is lost to satisfy the algorithm.

Chasing numbers without nurturing relationships is to social media what yellow press is to journalism: A gimmick that commoditizes engagement and puts everything else in the background.

So, what’s the deal with it? Why do we care enough to write about it?

The answer is simple: Because many brands are falling for this practice to pump up their numbers, without considering the long-term effects it brings along.

This won’t be a long article, but understanding how engagement farming works will give you an edge to level up your social media game and help you avoid practices that may taint the perception of your brand.

Engagement farming examples

Imagine a brand launching a new product on social media. To boost visibility, they enlist the services of an engagement farming agency.

This agency deploys automated bots to generate thousands of likes, comments, and shares on the product’s posts. As a result, the post gains traction, appearing on more users’ feeds and increasing the brand’s reach.

However, it’s evident that the majority of interactions are shallow and lack genuine engagement. There’s also a lot of plain hate for the content within the interactions, but nobody cares as long as it’s drowned by likes and shares.

This scenario is a common (although fictional) example of engagement farming, where the focus is on quantity over quality, leading to inflated metrics but diluted impact.

Now, let’s take a look at real engagement farming examples and the significance they carry.


You probably recognize (and despise) the example above as much as…well, as much as everyone else does at this point.

This is not the first nor the last time a brand will fall for engagement farming while chasing a trend. The result is often cringey and tired.

Sure, it may not be completely awful, but it’s not necessary either, particularly when we’re talking about a household brand that came up with some of the coolest tech artifacts that ever existed.

Moving on, here’s a classic example that, in one way or another, can be found on every single social platform out there.

engagement farming example, second example

Posting pics of cute animals is one of the oldest tricks in the book of engagement farming.

There are countless accounts with millions of followers harvesting billions of likes every week, and it will never stop.

However, unlike trend-chasing, this is mostly harmless, and you don’t see many brands falling for the cute p*rn stuff.

Now let’s move on to our third, and perhaps most dangerous example.

engagement farming, third example

Rage-baiting is by far one of the most popular ways to farm engagement these days, and not even the wealthiest people on earth seem to be immune to it.

While common among public figures, it’s rare to see brands openly baiting their audience out there.

There are rare instances where baiting can also be a display of smarts and humor, but that’s even rarer.

Other examples of engagement farming include click-bait (shallow content that relies on sensationalized headlines or thumbnails to get traction), content recycling, follow-baiting (that is following accounts to be followed back, and then unfollowing them), and overuse of incentives (leading to insincere interactions).

What’s the difference between engagement farming and content creation?

Let’s play the devil’s advocate here: Why doesn’t engagement farming count as content creation?

At a basic level, the difference lies within the intentions behind both efforts.

Engagement farming prioritizes manipulation, while content creation pursues authenticity and meaning. The former speaks to the algorithm, while the latter speaks to people.

Other differences are:

  • Content creation puts more value on quality over quantity, and pursues originality.
  • Content creation involves researching audience preferences, crafting narratives, and designing assets…engagement farming is a lot more formulaic and unoriginal.
  • Content creation pursues brand loyalty through authentic experiences. Engagement farming just wants your like/share/click to inflate numbers on a report.

On occasion, engagement farming goes the extra mile and becomes a fully unethical practice as well by relying on the use of bots, false promises, and click farms.

How to deal with engagement farming as a brand?

Brands usually need to focus on two aspects when dealing with engagement farming.

The first one is how to avoid falling for it as a content creation tactic. You know, sort of what Sony did in the example we shared above.

The second aspect is to learn how to avoid reacting to it in any imaginable way.

The answer to the first problem is pretty straightforward: Focus on creating quality content and genuine connections. Be transparent about your engagement practices and communicate openly with your followers.

Does this mean you can’t hop on a trend, make jokes, or give your opinion on something that’s sweeping the internet?

No, of course not. Just make sure that you’re bringing something that is yours to the table instead of regurgitating the same others do because it’s tempting to see a spike in the number of likes your content gets.

Also, give credit where its do, and do not feed the beast.

For example, if you’re doing influencer campaigns, collaborate with influencers and partners who share these values and have a real connection with their audience, rather than with those who chase and sell inflated metrics.

Finally, should you block accounts that farm engagement?

We recommend not doing that, particularly on X.

Despite what Elon said about banning accounts involved in engagement farming, the X algorithm tends to penalize anyone who blocks accounts, even when it’s accounts that do questionable stuff.

Instead, mute those accounts and wave them bye-bye forever.

In conclusion: Be real, stay authentic, connect with people, and always strive to stand out on your own merit.

Josh Krakauer

Josh Krakauer is the CEO of Sculpt, that B2B social media agency you just discovered. Josh has launched social media campaigns for best-selling books, publicly-traded corporations, and early-stage startups. Josh works from Washington, DC, but still thinks Iowa City is the best city on earth.

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