The Art of Engagement

23 11 2010

To engage (as per Merriam-Webster dictionary):

to attract and hold by influence and power; to interlock with, to mesh, to bind to something; to provide occupation for, to hold the attention of, to induce participation, to bring together, to deal with especially at length, to take part, to give attention to something.

Think about people who engage you in conversation. You know the ones – you could talk to them for hours, you share all sorts of things with them as they do with you, you build something together, you walk away feeling like you have come to ‘know’ something or someone. How do they do it? Is it their form? The things they share? Their energy? Their focus on you? Their sustained commitment to your relationship with them? Or is it all of the above?

More importantly, what can these kinds of conversational partners tell us about engaging through social media?

  • People engage with People. Yep. Real people. Not fake, phony, small talk, all about me people. People who are interested in you. People who ask ‘artful questions’ (the one question which you can talk on for 15 minutes). People who don’t spew forth facts about themselves. People who want to know you.
  • People engage with Those who Share Relevant Ideas. Important things. Interesting things. Things about life writ large. Things that speak to the common good/interest of all of us. Not about your dinner (unless you are a one of a kind, gourmet kitchen rogue a la Bourdain). Not about what your dog/kid/computer/avatar just did (unless they have one just like you).

The point is, there’s a difference between talking with people and talking at people, and brands are people or they should be. Multidimensional conversational partners. That’s what brands should be, just like people are. So let’s look at what counts as engagement in social media programs these days. As we review the various measurements, it’s worth asking yourself why, when the people we engage with are those who are interesting to and interested in YOU, our measurement systems are all based on what you’ve done for ME.  I understand that these are the only measures we have right now, but my question remains – what are we measuring?

If we look at the definition of ‘engaging’ above, there are obvious points of relation between the actions. They build on each other. Engagement is a process – a continuum, if you will – it requires sustained, evolving, reflective, inter-actions. Where can we see this process or continuum in our most common measures of social media engagement below (we need to look beyond these measures, by the way)?

1. Number of ‘views’ – Good work. Someone saw you.

2. Number of ‘blog subscriptions’, ‘fans or likes for a brand/page’, ‘twitter follows’, ‘LinkedIn follows’, ‘join a group’ – Better work. You’ve gotten someone’s attention and they want to hear more from you. They’ve cracked the door open for you – time to come up with something that will hold their attention now.

3. Number of ‘likes– What would be the conversational (read face to face conversation) equivalent of a hit on the facebook ‘like’ button? I’m going to say a nod, or a ‘hmm hmm’. It’s like saying, ‘right’, ‘sure’. How does it engage the other person? It demonstrates a form of agreement, perhaps reassurance, or a motion to continue the conversation. It basically says ‘I see you.’ or ‘I hear you.’ Perhaps even ‘I read you.’

4. Number of ‘shares’ (retweets, forwarded emails) – a level up from likes, this time your conversational partner is communicating that while they don’t have time to respond, they like and are willing to share your thought with others they know. That is, they are going to ‘pass it along’. Often called ‘word of mouth’, this is a form of engagement which exists indirectly because people are distributing your contribution to a larger community. It’s like when you come home and tell your roommate partner/kids/dog about a conversation you had with someone else. You know they might like it so you pass it on.

5. Number of comments in response Now we are beginning to see some level of quality engagement. To garner a comment to something you have shared, you’ve been relevant, interesting, and created a sense of togetherness with your conversational partner. So they take the time to respond to you. They share a thought of their own, an experience of their own, or even ask you another question. This is inter-action. Acting together.

So where does engagement lie?

I am going to say that the tool (read blog, facebook, twitter) matters not. I am also going to say that to some degree, the thought matters not. Why? Because engagement happens in inter-action. In the spaces between people using these tools to contribute, share, and respond to these thoughts. It’s a complex combination of providing a space, filling it with pieces and people that attract and hold the attention of others, getting to know them and then lubricating their interaction.

Artful engagement builds qualified leads, opinion leaders, and community centers. It’s important to know what you want before you start measuring actions. So next time you’re in a performance review as a social media or community manager, or even creating a job description or RFP for a social media agency or professional, consider what you think engagement is and what you want it to do for you. Then design the actions that will ‘count’ and not ‘count’ becuase everyone is doing it, but ‘count’ towards accomplishing your overall goal. Social media people are people people, after all.

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving – remember to go and thank all those fans, friends, readers and lurkers in your social media space. They’ll ‘like’ you for it! 🙂

With appreciative thanks to onigiri-kun, cliff1066 and John Althouse Cohen for their beautiful art!

Kirsti, @kblucy

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10 Social Media benchmarks, what are your plans for 2010?

1 12 2009

“Am I doing the right thing?” most agents involved in social media ask. This blog intends to offer a reflection on where and how to ground benchmarks for an organization or brand. It’s not a one size fits all approach. A few weeks ago, Sergio Balegno from MarketingSherpa was engaged in an interesting conversation about benchmarks and things on LinkedIn that I would like to expand on here. As inevitable as social media is, decision makers still have to justify their new and growing investments in social media.

I preface this post by saying that some brands have entered social media with “cool equity” giving them an advantage but not necessarily maximizing their community potential. It’s easy to under-serve the community and having a high number of fans does not a supportive community make.

I would love to hear your thoughts or if I should add other ones (I’ll update my post):

Mashing up Social media goals: Entering the social media house can be done via many doors. Of course we all want to generate leads but ‘marketing in your customers’ face’ (or prospects’) is sustainable for only so long. The receiver chooses, not the sender. Are you here to sell stuff or build brand equity and mind share? Are you brand building? Promotion? Customer service? Do you want to demonstrate thought leadership? If your ‘Brand stream’ is varied, it’ll be more trusted and more referred to.

Content quality, engagement and effectiveness: I tend to say that blogging is the mothership of social media. Some people may argue that it’s too hard or difficult to maintain a blog or that blogging is going down ‘cos tweeting is replacing it all. Brian Solis thinks it’s largely exaggerated. I am convinced that when a prospect shows up, a good blog will make the difference, especially if you are in a competitive environment. Social media brochures are an assured fail. People want brands that inform, according to eMarketer.com. Content & conversation might be king and queen, the underlying fact is that internet users are a hungry mob on the hunt for relevant information and Google is working for them (the user). Viewers are moving away from traditional media for a simple reason– they can’t find enough relevant information. Study how to be relevant.

Influence & dissemination:  Influence is tribal; communities are led by subsets of people who are more tribal. They tend to know each other, refer to each others’ work. Go to conferences to meet with each other. Having a Twitter account, or a Facebook page will soon be like having a nose on your face. It’s time to move on. Dissemination is what we are looking for: why should your customers carry &  share your voice and engage? Are you working on identifying who is your tribe on the networks (customers that is)?

Activation: Brand activation or community activation is better if social media is community supported. Brands aren’t all born equal (not every brand has the cool factor) but if a brand is in business, they already add value and activating a community should take different angles. If your brand is boring or your subjects are IP protected, make a lateral move and focus and look for common themes in your client’s interest. Activation is grounded in what I call the CUTE factor.

Authenticity: Say no to clogging (the art of blogging for keywords, fishing or pushing inward focused content). Blogging may move to more real time and condensed versions but blogging is like your face. Looking like a robot may appeal to the least majority. Auto DM or auto anything suck. I often observe that the “About Us” page of a website is a very well trafficked area…yep, people are checking you out. The “About Us” page is the precursor to the ‘social’ part of media.

Social media market share / mind share: It’s easy to fall asleep on your brand’s current success like some well developed brands. I would invite you to play with an excel spreadsheet and simply add your competitors’ brand names followed by another column with how many fans each of them have. You could also start tracking respective brand mentions and interaction. This way you find out the level of SM Mindshare out there.

Metrics: I was giving a presentation a couple of weeks ago here in Colorado and 50% of the audience didn’t know or didn’t have Google Analytics installed on their website (small- med size businesses). You can improve what you can measure. Great tools like Bit.ly, Topsy.com, Tweetmeme work great. Our practice tracks everything…we can.

Top revenue line and reduction in marketing / sales costs: Revenue can be noticeable even though it’ll depend on your business model. If you sell direct and online, it’s easier. Business size matters as well. As of June, Dell was generating above $2 million via Twitter. There are some great examples of cost reductions like those mentioned in the latest Groundswell awards. Comcast Care and Cisco are prime examples but they are huge so of course, things are magnified.

Lurking and reach: The groundswell yearly study shows us that the number one activity on the internet is to spectate. Lurking and reading still counts when measuring success. If I tweet something, 30-60 people may click on it, but for example the 5 Big Fat Social Media Trends blog a couple of weeks ago was Tweeted 650 times…. people are watching. They may not act or say something immediately, but quality stays in their minds.

Sentiment analysis: If you have the means, Radian6, Collective Intellect or Network Insights maybe the right way to go. You also can use other less expensive tools like OneRiot, Filtrbox… to understand if your brand should pay attention to the sentiment of influencers on Twitter or blogs. Lot’s of people say lot’s of things…. If Chris Brogan says something about dining, he probably will have less influence than David Lebovitz for obvious reasons. Be where the discussion occurs.

Have I covered your bases? Do you feel that Social Media is going to have hard benchmarks only or there is a balance between soft and hard benchmarks?

@YannR





Should We Re-Think the Lead Generation Funnel?

23 10 2009

What happens when someone becomes a fan of a facebook fan page? What happens when someone RT retweets something? What happens when you hold a conversation on Linkedin? This individual “vote to participate into a sales process” is seen by their ‘friends’. Did I shock you? It may not lead to a monetary transaction but it triggers an increased awareness of something. Consumers and customers have been empowered for some time to become active participants of their consumption. They are clearly moving outside of the traditional sales funnel starting with thorough research using internet.

A recent McKinsey report (June 2009 Subscription) highlights that only 30% of purchasing decision points are still ‘company driven’. This means that more than 70% of decision points in a buyer’s active evaluation process are now consumer-driven: user consumer reviews, word of mouth and in store interactions. Is it time to re-evaluate how things are done?

Social technologies are expanding these phenomena to micro-influence level never seen before. A few weeks ago, I had to change our office router and jumped on Twitter & FB to ask what people thought… it didn’t take more than 10 minutes to get 10 e-pinions… 2 from people I know, 8 from people I don’t know. It’s getting much easier to get that instant feedback. You bet I bought what was most recommended.

Now what does it mean for our businesses? People are empowered to swap between brands more than ever before. The social media funnel and measurement is simply upside down compared with a traditional sales or purchasing decision process. It’s cheaper, greener, further-sighted to use social media. Brands need to go through the journey of seeing themselves through the lens of their constituents. It’s not an audience, it’s a constituency.

1- A brand may and connect with its core customers to start with and then expand. There is, most of the time, an underlying community of customers or consumers. There are also communities of influencers in that space. Both groups should be recognized and empowered by your brand if you’re serious about building trust.

2- A community will only engage if they feel connected and empowered by that brand. If there is no exchange, there is no social media; it’s only push marketing through new channels. Deliver high quality content and help them support each other. People are likely to want to discuss about much larger things surrounding your brand than just your product. They already know of your product or use them.

3- The more they talk, the more they trust, the more everyone is merrier.

4- Be where conversations happen. If you’re lucky/skilled… but mostly honest and caring, people will progressively feel comfortable discussing the brand’s social footprint or presence. If not, a brand should carry its ‘conversation capital’ where ever those conversations happen.

No one likes to be part of a funnel (ask the Foie Gras ducks what they think about this). Like everyone else, we vote with our $$ when you see value and can trust a product or services. On the other side, it always feels good to buy something from a brand you trust. Be the change you want to see, they say.

Now, is this the right mix? Am I saying that the traditional funnel should disappear? No. How do you think an organization should look at these strategies?

@YannR





Trust 2.0 … Get Used To It

12 12 2008

I am more and more convinced that 2.0 is a mindset.  I was on Twitter (like always) last weekend between attending to the urgent lives of my 5 and 3 year olds… (Tonka trucks and other logistical movements) and struck up a conversation with @bakespace (bake who you may say? … twitter name/id). Much of our conversation was based on the rise of Digital Divide 2.0 which I see happening as Social Media reaches out to more human beings. You could argue that social networking sites in general are a generational thing and ultimately we will all be on there . You could also argue that it’s an early adopter phenomenon.  I tend to think that 2.0 is a mindset.

Newspapers, magazines and traditional sources have been ‘seen’ as the trusted source of information over time. “Who are we going to trust”? They say. Well YOU, your brand, your digital footprint. Web 2.0 is an organic world where new tools (software for the most of it), new behaviors and new ethical codes swarm. We are the media. We are re-creating trust mechanisms. I believe we can see through, look at each other in the eyes, shake hands, smile at each other and respect each other online. Businesses as well. Get used to it. It’s here.

Forums in the 90’s and early 2000’s have really given a bad reputation to online presence… they were one big stream and everyone could actually be as primal as possible. We now live in a more open world, if you vote for a 2.0 Mindset.  More and more consumers are judging how they are being treated and how their peers are as well.  BS on Twitter, blogging, facebook and so on just doesn’t fly and people quickly vote with their feet when BS shows up.

This week, amongst other things, I ran into 2 great pieces of content that talk about TRUST. The first was by Rodger Doodley blog on Trust with Rodger quoting Paul J Zak: The key to a con is not that you trust the conman, but that he shows he trusts you. Conmen ply their trade by appearing fragile or needing help, by seeming vulnerable… the human brain makes us feel good when we help others–this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers. “I need your help” is a potent stimulus for action. [From The Moral MoleculeHow to Run a Con.]

Selling is about creating a trustable and repeatable experience. If you are a marketer, you are here to build or consolidate the brand trust capital. Social Media (blogging, facebook, twitter, flickr, youtube….etc) when used in concert are here to “empower users” as Chris Brogan says – Those users are your prospects or your customers… Instead of being in their face and being another ‘Interruption Day Marketing’ brand, be part of their lives, be part of their search and their social graph.

Forrester Research just published a new study that has made bloggers and micro-bloggers rage this week… Corporate Blogs are at the bottom of the scale when it comes to “trusted information sources”.  It is very debatable and obviously linear thinkers (let’s apply traditional marketing to social media) are mostly doing it wrong. If you try to sell hard, you’ll just have ZERO effectiveness.

Cloggers (corporate bloggers) it’s time to stop – Companies and corporations have the bad reputation of just republishing their press releases on their blogs, talking about inward content…etc. RISE UP I say… Start by creating value, content that ’empowers your users’. If you can’t think of your higher purpose… have someone else handle your social media services. If you think you know but can’t get traction and your blog traffic sucks…. you’re also in need of help.

Now go on, get out there and build your company digital trustworthiness…

Onwards and upwards,


Cheers
Yann

Thanks to jasoneppink and will lion for their cool pix





Daring Social Media: Any Online Marketers Out There?

29 08 2008

Do you think social media and social networking is only for finding friends? Um….not quite!

30-40% of our customers’ clients are registered on some form of social network(e.g. facebook), social bookmarking (e.g. stumbleupon) and social media sharing sites (e.g. flickr). Out there. Participating, creating, cooperating together.

Are you with them or are you hibernating/hiding from your customers? It’s the social rejection thing, isn’t it? Maybe they will find out you are not as cool as you hyped yourself to be. Maybe they will talk trash about you behind your back. Maybe they will have a bad experience, and then they will tell all their friends, who will tell all their friends and before you know it, you’re out of business. Every business has that 5% of their customers who are unhappy, but what are the chances they’ll all get on Facebook and tell everyone on the planet how bad you are? Really, the chances are better that your fans will tell all their friends about you and before you know it, you’ll be meeting people you would never normally have the chance to meet.

But what about the bad apples, you ask? You just get out there and confront it. Present your side of the story, respond to your customer – offer an open door – they will be honored that you even engaged with them and responded (sad but true) and then they will spread the word about your response-ability. Businesses and brands need to open up to the very people they are supposed to serve. As far too many authors have written, businesses (especially large ones) have an inherent low trust worthiness in the industrialized world. Now is the perfect opportunity to rise up and engage in social media. Social media marketing is not about using another venue to slam more ads down people’s throats… it’s the wrong place to do that but it is the place to bring useful content to those who already support your enterprise.

If they buy your product or support your enterprise, they care about you. Their friends ought to know about that and you ought create a viral presence….

Marketers, your absence from social media and online engagement brands you as antisocial and uncaring- your so called ‘customer centricity’ is disappearing because you’re NOT where 350 million people already are using Open Social. Yes 350 million! (Washington Post). Can you believe that? Can you believe you aren’t even there?

Time to get busy….

– Define your social media goals – you can’t be everything for everyone but you can represent a ‘larger purpose’. Be a voice for your industry.

– Create and launch yourself properly where your customers are – talk with them.

– Grow your credibility – Feed them content (blogs, podcast, pictures, videocast…) that matters to them and their lives – A larger purpose will help.

– Engage and create an atmosphere of collaboration and co-creation – let your customer rave about your next super cool product or service and how user friendly it is because it was made by them for people like them.

Above all – be open, they’ll buzz you up.

And just in case you thought you were too old for all this or your customer is too old …. check out these stats!

# The fastest growing demographic on the Web are seniors. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is over 25.
# A baby Boomer turns 50 every 8 seconds. As a generation, they are vastly more Web-enabled than their parents.
# 75% of all Internet users watched at least one video last month. A good portion of these are seniors, and its possible that a site like YouTube provided many of those videos.
# Nearly half of those who use the Internet for health purposes (which is 80% of all Web users) are doing so on behalf of somebody else. (Source: Manhattan Research)


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