You often hear us social media types banging on about engagement. Engagement has been one of those buzz words this year but what does engagement really mean? Surely it just means chatting to people, having conversations with people? One of the things I’ve always loved about social media is the way it brings the traditional shop experience to your living room, to your train journey, to your pocket. I remember going into shops with my mother when I was a child and we’d chat to the grocer as he weighed the vegetables, we’d talk to the butcher about the best cut of meat to use for a recipe. Social media gives us the opportunity to do this again.
The problem is that the meaning of the word ‘engagment’ has changed somehow amongst people using social media. We can blame Facebook, the addition of it’s ‘talking about’ statistic and the complexity of the edge rank algorithm means that we are all clamoring for more engagement to make sure our message has been seen. On Twitter people are busy counting retweets and mentions but how are any of these relevant to business?
Jumping straight in to another analogy lets compare social media to offline networking. If we meet a group of people socially, whether it’s business networking, in a pub or as part of a social group, we introduce ourselves, we ask people about themselves, we try and find common ground or shared interests. We might tell a joke or two. The person we are talking to may even pass that joke on to someone else but they are unlikely to attribute it to you. These jokes represent the memes we see clogging up our Facebook newsfeeds. We may enjoy some of them, we might click the like or share button but how often do we check the source. Unless a meme is specific to your business and target market it’s not going to get you very far. Yes it’s good to make your customers smile but getting it shared continuously does nothing for brand awareness or your bottom line.
Lets go back to the networking meeting, you’ve met someone, you’re having a chat and you offer a good tip to them, something that will be useful to them. Next time they see someone who needs that bit of advice they are bound to pass it on, unlike a joke they will need to add validity to the bit of advice so if they can remember who you are they are more likely to attribute it to you. Obviously this analogy is in no way scientific, I have my amateur psychologist hat on but in my experience this is the way it works. So if you are designing posts to be shared on Facebook try and make them a piece of information so valuable people will want to see where it came from, will want to Like your page, follow you, subscribe to your blog in order to get more.
None of those actions I’ve described above actually equates to engagement though, a share on Facebook isn’t engagement, neither is a follow on Twitter, conversing and building a relationship is. Even a simple conversation with someone about the weather, the price of milk, a ‘good morning how are you?’ can be the spark that builds a relationship so make an effort to get into those conversations.
If you create good content people will come to you and ask for help, if you are a local grocer share the latest news about the town or a joke or two, if your a butcher talk about the best cut of meat, but don’t rely on people just coming to you, get out there on Twitter and talk to people, chat to people on their blogs and on their Facebook pages. This is real engagement and it will help you retain existing customers as well as encourage them to spread the word about what you do further.
If you are a local business and would like to have a chat about how social media can help you build better relationships with your customers give me a shout.
For a great example about how image sharing can help you get more Facebook Likes check out this post from Write On Track
(photo: Kerrigan Craft Butchers)