We’re talking engagement as it applies to online efforts to create and maintain dialogue with your community. We often call this community management.
Would you rather be managed or engaged?
Engagement helps to establish and sustain relationships. And by nature it helps to organically grow your community, your customers and your sales.
If you want to do social media right, put engagement on the top of your strategic plan.
Below is a list of the what, who, when, where, and how of engagement. Use it to review your company’s engagement, the backbone of your social media efforts.
1. What Is Engagement?
Social media engagement isn’t writing a sales pitch in 140 characters or less. It’s not about overtly promoting a product or directly pushing sales. Instead, it is about developing real relationships with real people.
Engagement is about becoming part of existing communities and fostering a community of your own. Most importantly, it means adding actual value to conversations relevant to your brand. Engagement, by its very definition, is about active involvement.
2. Who Should You Engage With?
Knowing who to engage with via social media is a roadblock for many brands whether they are just starting out or launching a new campaign. It’s natural to gravitate towards celebrities, big market influencers, media outlets and magazines. While these are all great choices, don’t neglect your actual target audience.
Klout scores, friend counts, follower counts and other units of measure are a good guideline, but anyone in your target audience is a good person to engage with. Engaging with a young professional with 89 Twitter followers might not sound like a step in the right direction, but building that relationship could eventually mean new customers through association and through recommendations.
Who knows, that person could have 2000 LinkedIn connections or be actively commenting and creating Yelp reviews.
If you’re going to try to engage with celebrities, media outlets, big market influencers and magazines, remember that they get hundreds of requests a month, and more so than the tweeter with only 89 followers.
So be unique, target highly specific people, and take the time to build a relationship. Effective Social Media is a slow and time consuming process, especially when engaging.
3. When Should You Engage Customers?
Social media engagement is a full-time job! It means being ready to connect and build relationships 24/7. The internet never sleeps, which means engagement never stops.
Because of this, it can be easy to skip over something someone said to you, at you or with you. Set up monitoring tools to help you track, in real time, what is being said and when. Aim to respond within an hour for Twitter mentions, no more then 6 hours for Facebook mentions and up to 3 hours for blog comments.
Social media engagement calls for you to respond to everything that comes your way. But you should not need to do this alone? The power of social media is to empower customers AND employees.
“Only empowered employees can solve the problems of empowered customers.” – Ted Schadler, Forrester
4. Where Should You Engage Customers?
But remember, engagement does not always have to be online, though social media has definitely helped with this. Engaging across all touch points of a brand is the most effective way to excite and keep your audience’s interest. Whether this is in person, online, or on the phone, it is imperative that they are constantly being stimulated.
Bring your community offline and invite them to a tweetup or a conference. Get to know them in real life. If you do not have the ability to have events, create online destinations that allow customers to connect with you and other stakeholders more often. Examples include a Facebook group, Twitter chat, or forum.
This will inevitably solidify your relationships. And don’t forget to follow up with simple emails, tweets or blog mentions. Follow up goes a long way.
5. How Should You Engage With Customers?
There are three simple and effective ways to get started with social media engagement. If you’re stuck, try some of these tips:
1. Ask and Answer Questions
People are looking for you to offer them value. Do just that by offering answers to questions that are relevant to your brand. Go a step further and ask questions to get people talking and inspire new conversations. (Refer to the recent success of Quora and leveraging LinkedIn Q & A as examples.)
2. Always Reach Out
Don’t expect a community to come to you. Instead, put in the effort to reach out and establish relationships yourself. Follow keywords and trends that you want to target, and reply to the people already discussing topics relevant to you.
3. Get Personal
The entire purpose of engagement is to build a genuine relationship and connection. Don’t cut corners! Take the time to remember an interesting fact about people so that you remember them and your connection in the future.
Make your attempts at engagement more personal by using “you” and “I”. Tie an interest of theirs into the conversation. Tip: Use their first name. It shows uniqueness and gives the sense of being genuine.