Engagement is not an option

In the Advanced Social Media Strategies class at GA today, we covered the topic of social media engagement ad nauseum. It’s a big topic, mainly because the word “engagement” can mean just about anything you want it to mean. First, we discussed what “engagement” means, and then we talked about why and how you go about said “engagement” on social media.

First, what engagement means. Specifically, in this class, we cover Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, video, and blogging. Engagement across all of these platforms can be defined from both a reactive and a proactive view:

  • Reactive: when you post to any of these channels, and your audience replies, likes, shares, or clicks, you should respond in kind. For example, if someone retweets your post about your recent blog post, you should thank them for the retweet. If someone comments on that blog post, you should thank them and answer their question(s) if they ask.
  • Proactive: You can proactively follow/like your target audience influencers, follow/like your clients on various channels, segment followers/fans into lists, and share your clients’ posts.

These are very simple examples of proactive and reactive engagement, both of which are powerful, time-consuming, and require an intentional plan of engagement. In other words, it should be a strategic decision to engage in a certain manner, according to your brand.

That set the stage for the ensuing conversation, which grew out of the question of the amount of time you spend – or should spend – in reactive engagement. The way I describe this part of social media is to use the retail store analogy:

  • Imagine that, instead of owning a website, you own a retail store. When someone enters the retail store, perhaps you have a little bell on the door so you hear them come in, and to everyone who comes in, you offer a greeting like, “Good morning! How can I help you today?”
  • Then, later on, while that customer is still in your store, they approach you and ask a series of questions. They might even compliment – or disparage – something that you offer for sale in the store or the way the store is arranged or how easy (or hard) the store was to find.
  • Finally, the visitor walks up to the check-out counter with their merchandise and method of payment.

Each of these is a type of engagement by your retail audience. Would you ignore them? Of course, you wouldn’t. Each type of engagement is from a potential customer, and based on your response to each of their engagements, may or may not become a repeat customer with a very high lifetime value.

Now simply translate that analogy to social media. Those who engage you are your audience, your followers, your prospects, your future customers. If they ask you a question, compliment your website or app, or make a purchase, should you ignore them? Of course not.

My point here is that social engagement is not an option. The only question is how will you handle the volume of engagement required by your audience? That’s where we must each come up with a strategy at which we can be successful. For example, if you know you do not have time to respond to questions from your blog, email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, one option might be to direct all inquiries to a specific channel, like email only.

Again, a simplified example, but the point is the same: if you open up a 10,000 square foot retail outlet and you have 5 sets of doors, three checkout aisles, and 4 phone lines, and you’re the only employee, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The same applies to your social media strategy.

What do you think about that?

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