Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Social Media “Engagement” is a Means to an End

Social media “engagement” gets you halfway, its what you do next that matters.
Over a decade ago, when Social Media was emerging, people made fun of measurement, social media strategy, and any hint of a brand or business trying to monetize social media efforts.  This sounds impossibly crazy today, but it’s true.  The common refrain was “Social media is not about your brand. It’s about the conversation.” If you are reading this, chances are you were engaged in those very same conversations.
We’ve come a long way and even the “conversationalists” have backed down. Social media today is being maintained by the traditional marketing, PR and advertising agencies, for better or for worse. Despite this forward progress, every so often I hear old-time thinking.  Such was the case on at a recent conference when a purported marketer stated the true goal of social media was “engagement.”

When people talk marketing strategy, they are talking about a course of action to position the business or brand in such a way that it can monetize its products and image in such a way that competitors cannot.  Clearly, it is hard to be truly strategic by “engaging” with customers in social media.  It is also not uncommon for me to hear brands state goals like “wanting to double their fan count by the end of they year”, which is even less strategic than getting visitors engaged and interested in your products.   Engagement should be seen as a component to an over-arching marketing strategy, rather than an end.  This is not to dismiss the importance of social media engagement.  When done as part of an overall plan, it leads to increased awareness and interactions which, as you may expect me to say, offers significant value via rich insight into consumer behavior. 
Social media’s opportunity in the marketing mix is to provide consistent, small insights and conversations drive brand relationship. When properly executed it drives consumer interest, and affinity and meaningful activity (like a purchase, review, referral).

But... Listening to Engagement Can Help Strategy
Note that nowhere have I said that social media is not important.  Social media is important, as is engagement, especially if you use the hidden data. If you have an active social media base, the data can be used to profile your audience as a whole to understand their interests and lifestyles. Just as you would in “pre-social media era” listen to customer complaints and feedback via email, voicemail, surveys, social media lets you listen to your audience and respond accordingly.  In fact, there is no better way to get a comprehensive picture of your audience than through social media.   And when you understand the customer you understand how to make better strategic marketing decisions.  Of course, you should still listen to those emails and other direct messages.