Real engagement in social media takes more than just a Tweet
You can’t get people to do something they don’t want to do – true before social media and still true as brand and consumer behaviours change. It sounds so obvious it doesn’t need saying, but too often attempts by brands to engage consumers in social media fail to truly take this into account. It turns out that engaging people is not as easy as just having a good idea, telling people about it and hoping they will agree and do what you want them to do.
Many brands recognise the value that influencers, fans and advocates can bring to their business (for more on these three types of people and why they are different read this). They want to engage these people and often believe that they should want to engage back because the brand is one that they should admire, or because the idea is a good one. However life isn’t this simple. Too many social media campaigns are poorly executed because they focus too much on what the brand wants to achieve and not enough on what the people they are engaging with want.
The signs are easy to spot. Out of the blue you get a message from a brand you haven’t had dealings with before, point out some idea / product / event that you ‘might find interesting’. You’re not sure why you’ve been chosen nor what they want you to do – the assumption is they want you to attend an event, or talk about the idea (obviously using their hashtag so you contributions can be measured). But why were you chosen in the first place – you may just be left in the dark about this, and it probably has more to do with your Klout score or the number of followers you have (terrible measures of influence that these are on their on).
A poor campaign may be even more obvious if you look at the brands Twitter stream and see message after message to other people saying what your message did.
So you’re not special, you don’t know why you’ve been chosen and you have no real history with the brand. The stage is not set for a truly engaging and beneficial relationship between brand and consumer.
Of course there are times when real, sustained engagement is not what people are after. They may just be looking to get ‘buns on seats’ – to hit targets for mentions of hashtags or people at a one-off event. Real engagement may be less interesting to them on this occasion.
For me, this is always a real shame. As a brand, don’t go to the considerable effort to get somebody to do something for you and then not build on this. But real engagement is hard work, and cannot just be switched on in a morning of Tweeting for a one-off campaign.
If you do want real engagement for the long-term (and most brands probably do) then the truth s that this takes hard work and dedication, and you need to get three things right:
- Identify the right people: On their own a Klout score or the number of followers somebody has is meaningless. Work out who you actual want to engage – and spend good time doing this. Then work out how you reach these people. You probably want to engage through the influencers of your target audience, not always with the target audience direct. For example – want to engage runners in Scotland? Rather than targeting everybody with ‘runner’ in their Twitter bio, find out who is influential in key forums were runners hangout, then target these people.
- Really get to know them: If you are going to build a relationship with people then you need to understand them – who they are, what their interests are, what motivates them. Build detailed profiles of people and removes the ones where you don’t think you could build a relationship right now.
- Build a two-way relationship: However great your idea, you need to make it relevant for people. What in particular about them has made you approach them? What problems have you identified your idea could once for them? How will getting involved with you really help them in their own very personal aims?
Engagement is social media is about two-way relationships. There genuinely has to be something in it for the people you want to engage, and you have to make it clear to them why you want (or indeed ‘need’) them to get involved in your plan. They need to be well chosen, be relevant and feel that they are special and their needs are being supported. And that takes hard work and planning, but will pay off many times more in the future.
Without that you don’t really have engagement, and your campaign is not particularly social. You’re just sending mass messages out through a public medium, which may save the short term need but disappointingly neglects the real benefits of social for brand and for consumer.