Engaging with customers

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)

If you’ve been using social media for business for some time you will start to recognise specific people who contribute to your posts, discussions & tweets the most. They start to become the core of your community and will recommend you, your pages and your services to others they know.  These are your ‘Brand Advocates’.  This is a hugely powerful group of people and gathering a strong group is essential for increasing the reach of your message.  How can you nurture these people? How can you encourage them to share more?  Here are four recent examples of businesses using user generated curation or content to engage with and create new advocates.

@Ireland Twitter Account

WorldIrish.com launched a very clever initiative giving people the opportunity to curate the @Ireland Twitter account for a week. It’s totally up to the curator to decide what to post.  As I’m typing this the current curator is Jonathan Lynn whose day job involves curating and promoting street art.  As you can imagine there has been much talk about street art on the page this week.

The aim of the project according to the World Irish Website is:

…@Ireland is based around the idea that a single voice cannot represent a country. By sharing peoples’ experiences and lives with the world, project curators WorldIrish believe @Ireland can help to further connect Ireland to the world and the world to Ireland.

You can view the tweets from previous curator on the WorldIrish website.  I have my hand hovering over the send button on an email applying to be a curator… I’ll keep you informed if I do decide to go for it.


Another country, this time using user generated content to promote itself is Australia but this time it’s being pushed out by ProBlogger.  I love the story behind this one.  Darren Rowse, from ProBlogger decided that there were very few products he’d be happy to promote via his extensive social media channels and blog. One of those oh his list was his home, Austrailia.  With this promotion he’s managing to fulfil that wish.  I first saw it pop up on Google+.

The competition will bring 10 bloggers on an all expenses paid trip to The Great Barrier reef.  In return the winners will be expected to blog about their experiences.  Sadly the deadline for entries on this one has passed.  Those that did enter had to submit their ideas on how they would approach the task as well as submitting links to their own blogs and social media sites.  It’s clear they won’t just be selecting the winners on audience size but also on their ideas and how the experience will relate specifically to their readers.

The rules of entry will ensure that they get the best 10 bloggers with the biggest influence to participate in the project. By throwing the net wide and by running it as a competition rather than just researching influential bloggers in the field ProBlogger has already created a buzz around the project, many readers, myself included will be following the stories of the winners avidly.

Irish Rail Blogger

It’s fantastic to see Ireland in the European Soccer finals this year.  I doubt many of the people planning to attend have looked further than an aeroplane for getting there, however you can get there by train and Irish rail have come up with an excellent way to promote this service by engaging bloggers and potential bloggers.

The winner will travel over-ground via InterRail , get accommodation on a fan campsite in Ponza, have tickets to the three group games and receive €1,000 spending money.  A great budget holiday that is bound to attract the student and the all important Millenial generation.  Winners will be expected to produce daily blog posts in return.

To be in with a chance of winning applicants are asked to submit a sample blog post covering a journey they’ve taken or a sporting event they’ve attended.

The good news is that there is still time to enter this one, the deadline is Friday 27th April at 5pm. Details here.

Getting to the Euro’s is going to be a big stretch for a lot of people this year and the news has been full of the huge prices of flights and hotel accommodation. This competition should draw attention to the budget options that I’m sure will attract many of the people who otherwise could not have attended.


Engaging your audience this way and encouraging brand advocates is not a new thing.  Clothing chain store A-Wear have always been very smart at bringing their audience on board and as I started to read about the ProBlogger and Irish Rail blogging competitions I was reminded of a promotion from A-Wear and the Electric Picnic a couple of years ago.  They recruited bloggers via their Facebook page, narrowed it down to a few finalists, styled them in A-Wear clothes and asked their community to vote on a winner.

This competition was hugely engaging to watch on social media, appealed exactly to their target market and although it only produced one blog entry as far as I can work out, it definitely created a buzz around the brand as well as sending customers into the store to pick up their gear for the festival.

Have you seen any clever ways that brands have engaged their communities?


This week I look at one way to increase engagement on your Facebook page.  Not only does a photograph catch the eye of your audience more than a link or status update, it also has better edge rank (a stronger likelihood of appearing on the news feed of the people who Like your page.)

Engagement is becoming crucial on Facebook, the more engagement you get the more likely it is that your next story will appear in the feeds of those Likers that engage with you.  It also has the added strength of spreading the virility of the post beyond your existing Likes and to the friends of your Likers.

Photographs are crucial and in this tutorial you will discover the best way to share links using photographs as well as discovering the best way to create and add to photo albums.

I met someone last week who wondered if I still ran Spiderworking.com.  The reason?  She ‘Liked’ my Facebook page but hadn’t seen any updates from me in months.  Since Facebook made it’s latest changes to the newsfeed at the end of last year reports have been coming in of page updates not appearing in the stream.  Page owners also saw a significant drop in their page and post views and a new statistic appeared on our pages ‘talking about’.  All of this combined means that if we really want users to see our updates we need to encourage interaction, the ‘talking about’ stat has become the most important insight on our page.

So how can you encourage more interaction on your Facebook page?  I’ve been experimenting and here’s what I’ve found works so far.

Always look for feedback

Whenever I post something to Facebook I ask for feedback, instead of posting a link and saying what it’s about, I think about why I’m sharing it and add my thoughts and ask others for their opinions.  I try to end most posts with a question mark.  This has been a valuable tool for me and has helped me gather ideas and content for blog posts amongst other things.

Other effective tricks I’ve seen other pages use for getting feedback are posts with a missing word (see below), or asking for ‘three words to describe’.  Giving likers something simple to do will encourage more engagement than asking for a long opinion.

example from Mari Smith

Share on Twitter

If your posts are no longer appearing on the newsfeeds of all your fans you need to be reaching them elsewhere.  Posting links to Facebook posts on Twitter and asking for feedback is an effective way of widening the conversation beyond those who pick up your stories on Facebook.  Facebook users no longer need to like a page to comment on it so you may find you will get more interaction from new users this way.

I try and post one Facebook discussion a day to Twitter and have found it effective for getting new comments, all of these are hugely valuable not just for encouraging sharing but again for garnering opinion on topics that I can translate into blog posts or content in the future.

Use a variety of content

It’s widely agreed that images and videos have better edgerank than other types of content.  Images and video are also more visually attractive to users, they will catch your eye the way a status update or a simple link won’t.  When I’m posting a status update I try and find an image that illustrates my point and add it to the update. It’s important to include a variety of content types on your page and I wouldn’t recommend using the image trick for every update.  People get tired of the same content and you will discover that video and links will reach different users than images and status updates.

example from Amy Porterfield

Run a competition

Running a competition on Facebook will get lots of people talking about your page.  Use an app like ShortStack that allows you to configure sharing, this way people who enter will be prompted to tell their friends.  If you have an active user base running a photo contest that is judged by Facebook users will encourage competition entrants to share your page with all of their friends.

example from Country Hounds

Great content

This should really have been my first point.  Creating compelling content that people will want to share will always encourage interaction and shares.  I always recommend creating a content schedule for Facebook, you can download a blank schedule word document here.  Think about when you are going to post and what sort of content you are going to post on each day.  This will make it easier for you to find content to share and encourage consistent posting.

Carry a camera and a notebook with you everywhere and look out for photo opportunities that will work on your page.  I find the voice memo device on my phone invaluable and am always recording snippets of ideas when I have them.

What have I left out?  How do you encourage engagement on your Facebook page?  Let me know… leave a comment.