Engagement. It’s a buzzword you hear a lot when it comes to social marketing. There are many facets to engagement, and people focus on those aspects that most affect their brand. Let’s talk for a moment about what it’s not.
Engagement is not getting people to tell your story and promote your brand.
I probably made a LOT of enemies with that statement. So before you round-up the lynch mob with pitchforks and torches, let me clarify why I feel that way.
It’s Not About You – It’s About Them
Why do people get online? Is it to promote their favorite brands? Not likely! Think of yourself. When you get online, it’s to do the things important to you. If you’re a marketer, naturally that means promoting your own interests. You also try to catch up with friends and family in addition to constantly expanding your professional network. Basically, you’re focused on yourself. That’s perfectly alright, and completely normal. The average person, especially if they aren’t consciously promoting a brand (because some would say we’re always branding, whether we know it or not), mostly focuses on the social aspect of things.
GoGulf.com shared an interesting infographic on Internet usage. It shows that the average person spends their online time as follows:
- 22% – Social Networking
- 21% – Searches
- 20% – Reading Content
- 19% – Emails/Communication
- 13% – Multimedia Sites
- 5% – Online Shopping
Notice there’s no dedicated time to being a “Brand Ambassador.” Granted, part of the time dedicated to “Emails/Communication” may involve activity related to promoting a brand. Still, it’s clear that most of us are online to enjoy ourselves and do research related to our lives. We don’t wake up and say, “Boy, I really want to promote Brand X today!”
So, if you’re not trying to get people to tell your story, what are you trying to do when you engage people online? I’m glad you asked! You’re trying to communicate with them. You want to create a dialogue and make it easy for people, particularly customers and prospects, to let you know what’s on their minds. You need to get them talking, soliciting their opinions on things. That’s something people enjoy doing, and if you make it easy for them to do so, it fits in well with their reason for being online. It’s inviting them to do something they want to do.
That paradigm shift is the key to creating engagement. By not trying to get people to tell your story but instead asking them to share their opinions, you accomplish a few things:
- You learn what they like (and don’t like). You put out the best product/service you can. Because you’ve done your best, you’re satisfied with the result. But what do your customers think? Providing a forum where they can openly express themselves creates an opportunity for real dialogue. Because social media is “faceless,” people feel more at-ease and share things they may not in a face-to-face encounter.
- You enhance their customer experience. No doubt you are already concerned about each of your customers. Providing a way for them to share their views lets them know it. Additionally, it shows to potential customers that you care about more than just a sale.
- You create buzz. This is that elusive thing all brands want. Engaging people online creates buzz. By allowing others to share their opinions, you also allow the people in their circle to see what they share. They tell their story, yet it benefits you by letting others know how they feel about you. That’s a two-edged sword, because sometimes they may criticize your brand. Yet if you handle the criticism respectfully and professionally, it can still work out in your favor.
Listen to What I’m Saying
Every customer wants you to listen. Doing so validates them. Therefore, how can you listen better in this digital world? You do so by using the tools at your disposal.
Depending on your product or service, you’ll develop a social media strategy that works for your brand. It may involve using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and many other platforms. Likely you won’t use all of the available social resources, but no doubt you’ll integrate a few. Discuss the possibilities with your social media manager or a consultant to best determine the best mix of available media.
Once you’ve determined your platforms, make some decisions on how to create and handle dialogue. For the purpose of this post, I’m only focusing on the things that foster communication. These include things like the type and frequency of your online communication. You must also decide how to monitor social interactions, and how you respond to online communication (who replies, how quickly, and how you handle negative comments). You’ll find some resources below to help guide you in making these decisions. Again, seeking the help of a qualified consultant will make the process much easier.
People want to engage with you. By making it easy and desirable, you boost your brand’s image, and learn a lot about your customers and your products/services in the process. It takes work, but the payoff is huge! Remember, it’s all about them, your customers, prospects, and everyone else online. By implementing a successful social strategy, when your customers figuratively ask “Can you hear me?”, your actions provide a resounding “Yes!” as an answer.
Are you listening to your customers online? What can you do to help hear them better? Post your replies in the Comments below.
- 3 Big Brand Social Media Strategies for Small Business Budgets (amyporterfield.com)
- Creating Trust and Loyalty for a Brand Through Dialogue (intelligentpositioning.com)
- How to Make a Social Media Marketing Plan for Your Business (onewomanmarketing.com)
- How Social Media Helps Your Marketing Efforts (business2community.com)
- Content Isn’t King. Trust Is King. (seomoz.org)
- Tech Insights: Tips on Maximising Social Media for your Business (thenextwomen.com)
- Connecting With Current and Likely Customers By Boosting Your Social Media Appearance (leccoworkshop.com)
- 5 Ways to Proactively Engage as a Social Brand (socialsamosa.com)