The term “engagement” has been tossed around like a wet sock at a college dorm for a while now. If you were to play a drinking game, taking a shot every time a presenter said “engage the audience” at a social media conference… I don’t believe you’d be awake to see 10AM. So, let’s take a moment and see what this “engagement” is really all about.
Engagement = instance of interaction
One of the ways to define engagement is as an instance of interaction. This is usually manifested when someone clicks “Like” on your Pin or Facebook post, or RTs your Tweet, for example. That one instance of interaction with a piece of content is… engagement. Over time, the game is to build up an “engagement account” with continuous interaction.
The question brands may pose is: how do we make sure our audiences interact with our pieces of content? Before going further, we should re-frame what content really is. A great way to think about your next photo, tweet or status update is as a social object. Hugh MacLeod coined the term and you can read more about it here.
Back to the point, if you wish to create interaction, then create content that is relevant to your precise target audience. Not generic stuff… but really specific, targeted, thought-through, interesting stuff. For example, if you ran a software development company, consider sharing photos of a recent code-a-thon or a brainstorming session, or celebrate one of your clients through a featured story about THEM.
Engagement = influence on decisions
A while ago, while creeping around on Facebook (That’s right… don’t even say you’ve never done it), I noticed a friend of mine posted a picture. Now, we’ve been friends for a long time but life got in the way and we haven’t had a chance to get together in a few months at this point. A year prior we hit the gym together three times a week at 6AM. Well, by now I completely fell off the wagon and nowhere near the shape I was in then. The image he posted was one of his family on a hike. Not only did it look like they were having a great time, but it also looked like he was in even better shape then when we were working out together. It turns out he joined a local workout group called Soldiers of Fitness.
The following week, I was up at an ungodly hour of 4:30AM in order to join the group for a “buddy day” and give it a try. The timeframe didn’t quite work out for me [are you kidding me… getting up at 4:30AM?!]. BUT… the moral of the story is that I went. That one image, that one single interaction through a social network influenced me enough to get up, drag myself over to the park and get punished for 2 hours by some guy you’re only allowed to call “instructor”.
This aspect of engagement is inconspicuous, maybe even subconscious… but it does have a direct effect on our decision making process. It could mean considering an Acura while shopping for your next vehicle or thinking about a volunteer vacation in Ecuador rather then the all-in gluttony fest in Bahamas. All because someone, person or brand you follow, in your social circle posted something… sometime.
Engagement = behaviour
At the end of the day, when it comes to using social media to generate business results, it all comes down to one thing. Action. Action, which is a result of many instances of interaction and small pushes and pulls affecting our decision making process, is the true goal of engagement (for more on decision making, check out this video).
There is a great little wine shop in Okotoks, Alberta I worked with a couple of years ago. We created a Facebook page and set up some rules and guidelines. Over the course of a couple of years since then, through their many small interactions they built up a great, cordial following. By now, they’ve shared hundreds of drink recipes, held many functions and fundraisers and managed to create a sense of belonging. All this culminates in the willingness of the community members to ACT. Their wine tasting events are sold out much quicker then before, their fundraisers attract more attendees and the Facebook-only specials move inventory.
While it’s unrealistic to expect these kind of results from the get-go, and that is sometimes the downfall of many impatient brand or marketing managers, it’s entirely possible to create and nurture a receptive community. This is where the true ROI of social media and engagement lies.
So, what is engagement really all about? There are likely to be more definitions then I care to count… but for our purpose engagement is an accrual of interactions that brush up against our decision making process and creates a change in behaviour. Engagement results in action.
How do you define engagement in your business?
– Ernest // Follow me on Twitter