I believe that beyond ubiquity, there is one core reason why the topic of brand engagement in social media is so hot right now – that consumers have become jaded by decades of interruption. We tivo our commercials. We hang up on telemarketers. We throw away junk mail. We walk into movies late. Couple those psychological factors with the measurability of online activity, and the availability of these word-of-mouth vehicles, and we have the shadow of a successful messaging vector. I say it’s only a shadow, because the point of message origination, and the messaging itself is nearly impossible to control.
To fully flesh out this vector, we need to understand where point A is, and I think that challenge leads a lot of people into the confusion around engagement that we see today. Companies wishing to engage this space should understand two things:
- That control was a function of broadcast messaging, and does not exist here. In social media, we trade control for influence.
- That social media engagement represents a Copernican revolution in the way the company interacts with it’s customers.
In this space, engagement is truly social, and the conversation can quickly go south. It needs to be honest, forthright and transparent. It needs a very trusted spokesperson at the wheel, with solid goals and contingency plans, but engagement begins by planting the seeds.
It’s kinda like pushing a car out of a snowdrift. Nobody’s going to be able to push the car out in one lunge – the car is far too heavy, and the ground is too slick. The best you can do is slowly start rocking the car, give it a nudge, let it rock back past where it was, and give it another shove. The car absorbs your energy, which makes it seem hard to push, but it also stores the energy you exert, and after some effort, the car has momentum of its own, and pops out of the drift. Silly analogy? I think the point comes through though, that despite all the admonitions to engage with otherwise socially responsible behavior, to be effective in word-of-mouth, marketers have to not only communicate transparently, but instigate subtly.
What IS point A? Point A is the audience, and they are gaining momentum.