What Type Of Social Media Engagement Is Right For Your Brand?
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2010 Engagement Marketing Opinions & Predictions

2009 was an important year in social media, despite the recession, or maybe even because of the downturn, funding for social media increased. The concepts of content marketing and inbound marketing gained a greater foothold in the lexicon of business people, and social networking grew in consumer and business usage.

I’ve been using social media for business since 2003, and as a consequence I’ve seen a few fads come and go, including cluetrain and more.

Content marketing and inbound marketing are solid strategies for marketing and communications success, but I think the approaches don’t pay enough attention to social media outreach and engagement.

Now, here I think that many companies recommending content marketing and inbound marketing strategies use social media outreach in their marketing efforts, and may even include outreach as part of the overall strategy they recommend to clients, but because the focus of those strategies is on content and the quality of content online, many customers, and business people miss the importance of social media engagement, or they may understand how outreach works, but don’t think it’s relevant to them.

I think to be successful in using social media to communicate with customers in 2010 a successful engagement marketing strategy has to be implemented in addition to other strategies.

I thought I’d ask a number of my colleagues in the industry about their thoughts and predictions for engagement marketing in 2010. I received many great responses to the request and had many excellent conversations around the topic, developing lots of new ideas. I give you a synopsis of opinions and predictions below and then all of the insights of each individual contributor in my extended post:

Vic Beck - Even the best engagement marketing plan in the world won’t be effective without complete support from the rest of the company and you need the other parts of the company to be operating on all cylinders too. Jump to Vic's content

Toby Bloomberg - PR and ad agencies are stepping in and taking over the role and responsibilities of engagement marketing because the client is too busy and can't allocate internal resources. Reminds me of the controversy over ghost blogging; since on Facebook and often on Twitter "no one knows your name" is becoming acceptable I would think that in 2010 we'll see more. Jump to Toby's content

Robert Collins - Recommending and helping companies measure how engagement communications helps drive sales. Jump to Bob's content

Ja-Naé Duane - Inbound and content marketing, though cornerstones, are mere pieces of the equation when it comes to engaging your customers. What I foresee are a lot of businesses looking for an “easy way out” of what actually takes time: Building and maintaining a relationship with your customer base. Jump to Ja-Naé's content

Josh Fialkoff – [Social CRM] does seem like an area ripe for innovation. Right now, I have a hard time keeping track of all of my connections on each network. I imagine this is an even bigger problem for larger organizations. Jump to Josh's content

Doug Haslam - In 2010, I think we will see a flood of companies using engagement models, with the resultant failure and success case studies that the industry will feat on for the next few years after that. Jump to Doug's content

Shel Israel - The issue, from my perspective is to move from a broadcast perspective to a conversational perspective; to go back to the original thinking that created marketing departments which was about developing relationships with people who are relevant to your business.

Conversations require marketers to listen, and where appropriate respond. They can bring back to their companies clear, candid and timely input on what the marketplace thinks, wants and hates. Jump to Shel's content

Jen McClure - Obviously the more an organization is looked to as trusted and a valuable source for content (i.e. information and education), the more engaged and possibly even more loyal the customer will be. And the more opportunities that the customer has to engage with that content in an interactive way, the more knowledge can be gleaned from the customer. Jump to Jen's content

Zane Safrit - 2010 will be another year of tumult. But, the tide has changed albeit slightly from primarily destruction of what's not worked, not been true, to more creation of what we want because it's true to our values. The key word remains: Disruption. Jump to Zane's content

David Meerman Scott - Is your concept like Permission Marketing but with a social networking component? I don't like to get hung up in names for what is really just communications. Jump to David's content

Aaron Strout - As consumers continue to shut down channels of access (hello DVRs and MP3 players), marketers need to find a way to stop interrupting and begin engaging... but with scale. Jump to Aaron's content

Warren Sukernek - I don't think that content marketing and inbound marketing are stepping stones to engagement marketing, but rather they are 3 complementary and parallel efforts that must work together in order to be optimal…..Engagement is the hot topic today and it may be the easiest element to execute, but I don't think that it is the most measurable nor beneficial. Jump to Warren's content

Chuck Tanowitz - We need to find the right channel for the right information. We need to find ways to use what we have to continue the conversations. But not everything is going to work. Jump to Chuck's content

Lauren Vargas - There has been a lot of chatter about social media being/not being scalable. If a listening grid and team are established at the onset of the strategy, social media is scalable...no question about it. Take advantage of the skill sets throughout the company and understand a lone ranger cannot conquer the online world on his/her own. Jump to Lauren's content

Byron White - The only change I see is the relationship of "you" and "me" ....... knowing a bit more about the wants and needs of each other based on what we do and what we say both online and even offline. Jump to Byron's content

Warren Whitlock - "Listen.. and Love". Jump to Warren's content

Rex Whisman - The days of trying to determine who the external audience is and communicate and market to them through traditional ways are dead, or on life support at best. Jump to Rex's content

Gil Yehuda - I think we have a bit more to learn about what works and where. And then, yes, we'll see interaction and engagement marketing used more and more. Jump to Gil's content

Here is the email I send to colleagues:


I was writing to you to ask if you can give your insights for a post I’m creating on 2010 engagement marketing predictions.

I'm convinced content marketing and inbound marketing are merely stepping stones to engagement marketing. You might develop really good content, but without relationships in the wider community you will not succeed in getting your ideas and content into the multitude of personal media available on the web. Yes, you can pitch bloggers and people on social media, but the efficiency of pitching an entire market does not produce the ROI it once did when there were a few traditional media outlets. Instead being part of a wider community where you are engaged with your peers’ content, will get your content read and discussed. Companies will have to hire the people, develop the processes for listening, triaging and response to ensure effective community management. Look at Dell, Starbucks and Comcast for good examples of effective engagement marketing.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? How do you think the industry will develop in terms of using engagement marketing in 2010? Or do you think I’m entirely on the wrong track and content marketing and inbound marketing is the only way to go?

Additionally, what will social CRM do for engagement marketing? What are the opportunities and the impediments for engagement marketing crossing the chasm in 2010?

Here are the answers I received:

Vic Beck

Historically, leaders in particular industries (like the companies you reference) have been an integral part of public discussions about their industries, from innovations to issues.  I think ideally, if a company wants to be a leader (and at a minimum a player) in an industry, then engagement marketing as you define it is important.  That being said, a successful marketing strategy utilizes the appropriate tools in your marketing toolkit to obtain a desired effect.  But, like an orchestra hitting all the right notes, companies needs all components (sales, logistics, finance, etc.) to conquer an industry, not just marketing.  My point is that even the best engagement marketing plan in the world won’t be effective without complete support from the rest of the company and you need the other parts of the company to be operating on all cylinders too.   

Toby Bloomberg

John’s Question: Do you agree? Do you disagree? How do you think the industry will develop in terms of using engagement marketing in 2010? Or do you think I’m entirely on the wrong track and content marketing and inbound marketing is the only way to go?

Toby’s Answer: I like your description of engagement marketing. I believe you're on the right track. I'm seeing companies take a much more strategic approach to what we called "listening" that includes sophisticated analysis with results that support business and marketing outcomes, as well as, dovetails into their traditional consumer insights studies. Participation is as complex especially for larger brands where social media does not reside only in marketing but within multiple departments. How do you participate and who does that?

John’s Question: Additionally, what will social CRM do for engagement marketing? What are the opportunities and the impediments for engagement marketing crossing the chasm in 2010?

Toby’s Answer: My concerns about social CRM mirror my concerns of traditional customer care .. those positions are usually delegated to the most junior people who have little knowledge of the brand or organization, or out sourced to people with less than adequate training, and almost always no real authority. The 1:1 telephone conversations can be 1 to many tweets or Facebook posts where a minor slip can cause major repercussions.

PR and ad agencies are stepping in and taking over the role and responsibilities of engagement marketing because the client is too busy and can't allocate internal resources. Reminds me of the controversy over ghost blogging; since on Facebook and often on Twitter "no one knows your name" is becoming acceptable I would think that in 2010 we'll see more. While I think it can be managed to some degree by a 3rd party (if they are brand passionate and savvy) the relationship is never fully the company's. Those who write the content own the relationship.

Robert Collins

I'm predicting - recommending and helping companies measure how engagement communications helps drive sales - channel support - And online marketing measurement aspects of SEO - WOM and inbound marketing.

Ja-Naé Duane

Reflecting back on 2009, I cannot help but wonder what this upcoming year will be like, particularly from an engagement standpoint. So, John’s request was timely. Thanks John for being an avid mind reader.

I completely agree that inbound and content marketing, though cornerstones, are mere pieces of the equation when it comes to engaging your customers. What I foresee are a lot of businesses looking for an “easy way out” of what actually takes time: Building and maintaining a relationship with your customer base.

You know the saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it”? True engagement marketing doesn’t allow for companies to do that. Customers know that companies are listening to their conversations and now, more than ever, customers feel empowered to reach out to companies to speak their minds (good, bad, or indifferent). Within the upcoming year, companies will have to gear in, take the time, and invest in human capital if they want to stay in the game.

If you want evangelists for your brand, then you have to walk the journey with each person. From prospect, to customer, to repeat customer, it is up to every company to make that person’s experience one that they will remember and enjoy enough to share.

So, how will that play out in 2010?  Some companies will follow the great examples set by Dell, Comcast, and Zappos. Others will fall and fall hard. One can only be the example that one wishing to see in the world.

Josh Fialkoff

John’s Question: Yes, you can pitch bloggers and people on social media, but the efficiency of pitching an entire market does not produce the ROI it once did when there were a few traditional media outlets.

Josh’s Answer:  It sometimes seems that the roles of marketing and customer service are becoming intertwined (as in the case of Comcast). I also wonder whether there is data showing that Comcast's efforts (and others) are impacting their overall image, rather than their perceptions among the segment of people using social media.

John’s Question: Additionally, what will social CRM do for engagement marketing? What are the opportunities and the impediments for engagement marketing crossing the chasm in 2010?

Josh’s Answer: I have been looking for a good CRM which works well with social networks. I haven't found the perfect solution. This does seem like an area ripe for innovation. Right now, I have a hard time keeping track of all of my connections on each network. I imagine this is an even bigger problem for larger organizations. I've been looking at services such as http://newbay.com/sab.php and others.

Doug Haslam

I picture "engagement marketing" at the top of a pyramid, below which  "content marketing" and "inbound marketing" exist. All are pieces of a puzzle. The reason engagement sits on top is twofold:

1) I agree that it is most effective, as engagement naturally holds the customer or audience. They can speak back, and more importantly, know you are listening to them

2) Engagement marketing is smaller (thus at the tip of the pyramid) because of the effort involved. In order to engage effectively, one must pick spots-- perhaps that is qualified leads only, customers of a certain level, people who have self-selected themselves to engage with the company- with a little headroom left to experiment and find out what really works for an individual company.

As companies find the engagement works, perhaps they can put more resources behind it, and perhaps then it can scale more. For that to truly work, companies must then trust their employee ambassadors to act in the interest of the company even as they are separate individuals. They may also try trusting the customer ambassadors to spread the word, knowing they exert less control over how those advocates talk about the brand.

In 2010, I think we will see a flood of companies using engagement models, with the resultant failure and success case studies that the industry will feat on for the next few years after that.

*I know most marketers use a funnel to explain such things, but I'm using a pyramid.

Shel Israel

My focus on this very same set of issues begins with the small thought that marketers can no longer impact much by sending messages out, whether those messages are sent via a display ad or a well-written blog.

The issue, from my perspective is to move from a broadcast perspective to a conversational perspective; to go back to the original thinking that created marketing departments which was about developing relationships with people who are relevant to your business.

Conversations require marketers to listen, and where appropriate respond. They can bring back to their companies clear, candid and timely input on what the marketplace thinks, wants and hates.

Jen McClure

I think that you're definitely correct in that it's a marriage between great useful content and having the strength of the relationships and network to spread the content/ideas/awareness.

As to how this all relates to social CRM is a very interesting point. Obviously the more an organization is looked to as trusted and a valuable source for content (i.e. information and education), the more engaged and possibly even more loyal the customer will be. And the more opportunities that the customer has to engage with that content in an interactive way, the more knowledge can be gleaned from the customer - make sense?

David Meerman Scott

David’s Response: Well, we are talking some semantics hair splitting here. Seth Godin talked about Permission Marketing more than a decade ago. Is your concept like Permission Marketing but with a social networking component? I don't like to get hung up in names for what is really just communications.

While I agree with your comment, I think you have overlooked two critically important aspects. Based on these elements, I'd say I disagree with you.

1) Search engines. If somebody creates something great on the Web, the search engines should find it and surface it (particularly if it is niche content, and particularly if it comes from a large organization). So while I agree with your concept, it is not the only way to get out there.

2) The value of a big brand. I'm sick and tired of hearing about Dell, Starbucks, and Comcast. Of course they are doing a good job because people listen to big brands! But what the heck does that mean to me if I am an independent real estate agent or a small manufacturer of surfboards? Unless your readers are only people who work for big brands, you do a disservice to them by only talking about Fortune 500 companies.

John’s Reply: I see a gap in current thinking around content marketing and inbound marketing. There's a lot of talk about content creation, and even uses the content to engage customers, but not much talk about the process of outreach within customer and media influencers. That outreach should not be sales related, but rather discussion or idea related, you and I as bloggers understand that if we are going to be successful within our community we need to share and build relationships with other bloggers in the marketing and PR community. If we do that our peers, customers and even competitors will share our information. Now I think that the leaders in content marketing and inbound marketing understand how the process of engagement marketing works, they are active in outreach, but I think because the central focus of those concepts is content, and attracting customers to your site, the process of outreach is lost on the average newbie marketer.

Content is important in the world of search engines, and this is one reason why I think content marketing and inbound marketing are pushing the idea of marketing forward and that's a good thing. However, the primary factors in getting high ranking on search engines are content relevant to your audience when searching, indexable site, and links from other sites that include the keywords your audience is searching upon. Linking, and particularly blogs are powerful tools for building a linking strategy, instead of asking for a link however, the strategy is to discuss ideas and concepts within a community, you conduct engagement with your peers in your online community, and as a result of those interactions people follow you, link back and even reference you in their own posts. My conversations with IBM, Macromedia, even Dell, and Microsoft in 2004 and 2005 for the corporate blogging studies convinced me of this, and I don't think much has changed. Today social media is even more important, as twitter and other life streaming results are appearing in Google results. I conducted a search on Scott Monty yesterday (looking for his review of Sherlock Holmes) and his twitter feed came up in the relevancy search results.

Engagement helps with search, and the marketing covers the concepts of creating good content.

I've always mainly focused on big brands, mainly because many tech companies were large, and the tech industry led the social media revolution. It is not without accident that some of the leading brands are in tech. No problem with looking at small companies.

Back to your point about permission marketing, you are right content marketing and inbound marketing are extensions of the concept, but really so is engagement marketing, I think there is a way to knock on someone's door and talk to them, and make the sale by not directly selling, rather talk about what they want to talk about. Content marketing and inbound marketing push the idea of content forward, but I think the majority of marketers hear content marketing and think they can hire a few writers to ghost blog for their blog and twitter account. That's not really engagement, its taking the old way of doing things of pushing a message and stuffing it down the social media channel. No listening, no dialogue involved. Yes, it works, just as direct sales stills works, and traditional media relations pitching still works, couldn't we get a better ROI with content and engagement?

Really I wish all of these two keyword phrase terms for marketing were not needed because I think the word marketing fits the bill perfectly. Except so many zealots have bashed the term marketing over the last 10 years instead of explaining that business people only got half of the concept. Marketing isn't about selling more stuff, it’s about listening to consumers to make a better product, price, place and promotion so you can sell more stuff. I'm realistic though as the terms content marketing and inbound marketing demonstrate, those terms have appeared when needed by the community, those terms are helping the business community to change their practices, actually develop valuable content. I think a new term is needed to close the circle when it comes to marketing, and that's engagement marketing.

David’s Reply: Sure, if you put it that way, then I guess there is a difference between so-called "content marketing" and what you call "engagement marketing."

Zane Safrit

Marketing, content or inbound or engagement, all sprout from the same source. That source is the moment when what the company delivers reaches all of their stakeholders: employees, customers, partners and vendors and yes shareholders.

Each of those moments is a pitch. The pitch is ‘trust me, believe me. Your solution you desperately need is...right here.’ The shareholders need company who will deliver a promised rate of return. The employees need a community with a purpose they believe and where their skills can shine, they can be recognized and they can grow. The customers need a solution to their immediate problem and their chronic problem. The chronic problem is we all want to be recognized, listened to, made to feel important.

My point is if your pitch is genuine, in 3-D (just saw Avatar), at each of these moments...then social media serves only to accelerate the spread of that experience. The ROI from any investment in a social media campaign now, in this scenario, is minimal. Free tools like Ning or Friendfeed and Facebook and Twitter and Youtube and Podcasts, minimal cost tools like blogging platforms of wordpress or typepad, can be quickly and inexpensively created, customized and the content is the content of each of these stakeholder’s experiences. Yes, there’s some administrative overhead and some upfront design costs. But these are minimal when compared to traditional advertising campaigns, easily controlled and the metrics (despite many in the social media agency crowd who disagree) easy to monitor and meaningful. And it has the added advantage of the content coming from true and trusted sources, in their words, describing their experiences.  Very powerful and engaging.

Traditional media outlets, as you already point out, would not be able to deliver a consistent message to each of these stakeholders. Or it would be cost-prohibitive to do so.  The demographics are very different  for each group. The media-of-choice would be very different. The primary driver for their interest in a message would all be different.

Social media though is able to deliver a customized message in the media of choice for each stakeholder. That customized message would, could and should, be in a peer to peer mode. That’s the mode with the highest trust ratings.

The biggest impediment and the biggest opportunity rests with company leadership. Marketing and branding begin ultimately inside the company, from the first interview of the first hire. Your first employee is your first customer. And if you sustain your passion and vision for that dream through vendors and partners, desks and chairs, new hires and websites...you’ll have an army of customers wanting to volunteer to be your marketing agency.

2010 will be another year of tumult. But, the tide has changed albeit slightly from primarily destruction of what's not worked, not been true, to more creation of what we want because it's true to our values.

The key word remains: Disruption.

Disruption. Disruption. More disruption. That's good and bad.

Bad: More companies will be caught still unaware of what is said about them in the marketplace.

Bad: More companies will try more ridiculously draconian methods of controlling the conversation: employee policies, blocking access, stealth sites and bloggers...

Good: These efforts will be revealed sooner with greater ruthlessness from the community.

Good: More companies who don't care about their employees and customers, the source of those conversations, will either change or come to an end.

Good: More customers and employees will find those companies who have changed or remain transparent, honest, ethical, true to their values

Good: More will leave those companies who aren't or insist on remaining in the dark.

Bad: Traditional institutions will continue to ignore the role of small business.

Good: People, employees and customers, founders and innovators, now know it's possible to be engaged with their brands as much as they desire.

Even better: We have the means, social media and our conversations, to find these disruptions, their sources and how to connect with them and ride this wave.

We have seen the possibilities. And we want them now. And now we have some of the means to reach them with social media and our own motivations.

Aaron Strout

Anyone that pays attention to my blog/webcasts/Twitter stream won't be surprised that I'm a big fan of great content. I'm also a bigger fan of engagement marketing which is why I was thrilled when John asked me to participate in his "2010 predictions" post.

For me, I love the concept of using content to help with word of mouth efforts. I also believe that a good listening strategy -- which ties in with this new concept of "social CRM" -- is a must for any company wishing to better engage with their customers. However, one of the biggest shortcomings of relying on these strategies is that they don't scale. There is a reason why CMOs spend millions of dollars every year on "interrupt" marketing i.e. they can achieve both reach and frequency by interrupting consumers via television, radio and online ads. However, as consumers continue to shut down channels of access (hello DVRs and MP3 players), marketers need to find a way to stop interrupting and begin engaging... but with scale.

Enter Facebook Connect. If you haven't heard of it, it's not too late.
Essentially, Facebook Connect allows Facebook members to use their credentials to authenticate on third party blogs, communities and websites. This is a benefit for the end user because they don't need to re-enter all of their demographic information (or their favorite books/movies/etc.). The benefit for the brand is that if the content is compelling, the Facebook member will drag a link to that content back into their newsfeed. With over 350 million users on Facebook and the average user having 130 friends [stats source here: http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics], a marketer can now have her cake and eat it too.

To better understand this new way of marketing, imagine your company sells cameras. Rather than trying to push ads and product specs at a potential customer that may or may not be in the buy cycle, why not create a non-branded tutorial that demonstrates how to take better low light photographs. This adds value to the end users life, creates engagement AND brand affinity. Because you allowed this user to rate and review this tutorial, you asked that they authenticate using Facebook Connect. Assuming the user gives permission, they now share that back with their 130+ friends on Facebook. Because the recommendation is coming from a trusted source AND like minded individuals tend to "flock together," your customers (and prospects) are now sharing your content in a viral yet meaningful fashion to their friends who coincidentally happen to be your target audience.

Taking this one step further... assume that when a Facebook member comes to your blog/community/website and participates in the aforementioned "low light photography" tutorial, consider placing relevant links to your ecommerce site at the end of the tutorial so that if the Facebook member liked what they saw in the tutorial, they can the buy the lens, tripod, camera or flash memory (perhaps at a discount because they are a Facebook member) that helps them take better low light photos.. Rather than feeling like an interruption, this now feels like a valuable service.

Yes, this requires more work and a different way of thinking but I promise you that this IS the way of the future. Look to thousands if not millions of companies to start creating valuable content and then scale engagement with that content (and turn it into profits) using tools like Facebook Connect.

Warren Sukernek

Interesting premise, but I'm not sure that I agree.  I don't think that content marketing and inbound marketing are stepping stones to engagement marketing, but rather they are 3 complementary and parallel efforts that must work together in order to be optimal.  They are kind of symbiotic disciplines.  And as far as scaling goes, I don't think engagement (or really community management the way you define it) can scale any better than content or inbound.  It would be interesting to get some of the experts in those fields like Joe Pulizzi or Brian Halligan to chime in. Personally, my bias is that engagement is the hot topic today and it may be the easiest element to execute, but I don't think that it is the most measurable nor beneficial (except for customer service, obviously). And as metrics become more important (notice I didn't say ROI), I think content marketing or inbound marketing efforts match up better with useful, actionable metrics.

As far as social CRM goes, I think that we will approach a point in 2010 where the need will be expressed as a holistic view of all company marketing activities whether social, digital, traditional, how they inter-relate and then the associated outcomes. Thus, companies can determine which levers and levels will meet their marketing objectives. I'm not sure if social CRM will do that.  I'd be curious to hear Peter Kim's perspective on that.

John’s Follow Up Question: What do we mean by engagement, it seems the world of advertising has crept into the term, I think of outreach when I think of engagement, while most marketers seem to think of content that engages.

Warren’s Answer: I agree with you that influencer identification and outreach should be integral parts of engagement.  However, I think the common usage of the term (along with community management) is Twitter sitting.  The concept of sitting on twitter responding to any mentions of your brand or other keywords is anathema to me.  Clearly, brands need to pay attention to the substantive, impactful comments. But they need to be selective in their responses.  So to pick on one of your examples, what is the value of some ex-barista at Starbucks telling me it's cool after I tweet that I had a delicious caramel macchiato? Do I as a consumer feel better about SBUX because some guy jumped into my tweet stream to tell me that he is happy that I enjoyed my drink? I just don't see it.  I really don't think a big consumer products brand gets any value out of that. And let's not even talk about the ghosting of corporate accounts by PR firms and ad agencies.

Chuck Tanowitz

Engagement marketing
 
Public relations has long fed at the trough of media relations. We sent off big books of “clips” to our clients and showed them wonderful circulation figures to demonstrate how the stories we’d pitched reached hundreds of thousands, if not millions of (potential) readers.
 
That’s right, POTENTIAL readers. A little word we sometimes threw in but seemed to hide behind all those big numbers. After all, we had great graphs showing the number of “hits” in business press, trade press, onlines, newsletters, analyst mentions, etc.
 
Then when a new CEO came in and slashed the budget, killing most of the PR program, we stood by wondering why. Hadn’t we shown our value?
 
Well, sort of. Yes, we did what we’d been paid to do: execute a media relations strategy designed to get our client’s name in the press. But we ignored the question of whether those articles were actually read and how those articles may have affected business results.
 
Things got a little easier when online publications started tracking which stories did well. Some publications even rewarded their reporters on whether a story was read by a number of readers. Armed with this information reporters could turn to the PR people and say with honesty “stories about your client just aren’t that popular.”
 
How can you combat that?
 
Our job now is not just to take our clients words and get them out into the public, it’s to help our clients engage their audience. Sometimes that will mean telling them things they don’t want to hear, like “no, changing the color of your logo is not worth a press release, but it is worth a blog post and a note on the Facebook page. We can write about the decision making process and ask for feedback.”
 
You see, we need to find the right channel for the right information. We need to find ways to use what we have to continue the conversations. But not everything is going to work.
 
Hear that silence? That’s the sound of your constituency not caring. You need to listen to that too. When people aren’t talking they just don’t care about what you’re selling. That’s not always a bad thing, but it means focusing your marketing and PR dollars at the channels that matter. When was the last time you talked about the spark plugs in your car? Yes, you need them for it to run, and in the right context you may talk about them, but you don’t mention them when talking about driving to pick up your kids.
 
Then trying to reach busy moms through parenting publications to talk about spark plugs is a waste of time. By the same token, trying to use major business publications when you just need a few thousand targeted users is often a waste of time.
 
Instead, determine who those users are likely to be and find out where they’re having conversations. Then go there and engage. Don’t sell, don’t pitch, don’t shout. Engage. Converse. Talk WITH them, not at them.
 
And then you’ll start to see real marketing success.
 
Often in marketing we get distracted by the shiny new thing. Years ago people went nuts with giveaway items like calendars, paperweights, pens and squishy balls with their names on them.
 
I remember one company spent a lot of VC money buying 100 cool scooters to give away at a telecommunications show. What did they have to do with the brand? I have no idea, but they looked cool. Luckily, a smart CEO came in and quashed the idea before it happened.
 
And so it is with “social media.” But what people tend to forget is that social media is a catch all term for a series of feedback channels. Just as with other marketing channels, such as email newsletters, media relations, analyst relations, etc., the role of social media within the organization depends on the goals.
 
The first thing any company needs to do is talk to their audience and find out where people are getting their information. What blogs do they read? What publications are a key part of their day? Who are their influencers? What does their information flow look like?
 
Your job, once you know that, is to fit into that information flow and engage them in conversation. 

Lauren Vargas

You are definitely on the right track. The listening and engagement strategies must be adapted and executed enterprise-wide to be successful. There has been a lot of chatter about social media being/not being scalable. If a listening grid and team are established at the onset of the strategy, social media is scalable...no question about it. Take advantage of the skill sets throughout the company and understand a lone ranger cannot conquer the online world on his/her own.

Regarding CRM, the opportunities to develop sCRM (social CRM as defined by Paul Greenberg) are endless. It is a matter of integrating the conversations and connecting the dots within legacy systems. This will take buy-in from the entire enterprise...as well as, some drastic market changes to tools and how they are currently being used. Another factor to consider is the public...they need to be educated about why this information is being gathered. Organizations need their buy-in too to connect the dots....many marketers do not address this elephant in the room.

Byron White

We're really spinning one wheel with spokes called content marketing, inbound marketing, direct marketing, conversational marketing and the latest flavor of blank marketing.

The only change I see is the relationship of "you" and "me" ....... knowing a bit more about the wants and needs of each other based on what we do and what we say both online and even offline.

Rex Whisman

I use the word engagement so much people probably get tired of hearing and seeing it, but that is the bottom line to get to the bottom line. I think it starts internally by engaging employees in the brand develop process. Creating systems and communications channels for them to share their opinions and recommendations about the brand, and understanding how those opinions and recommendations align with the mission and core values of the organization. Social media, mobile communications and other emerging technologies provide great opportunities for external audiences (and internal) to engage in the brand building process. Those communication channels are designed to create a community of champions for your brand. They also provide ways to more effectively assess your strategy, and at a lower cost. The days of trying to determine who the external audience is and communicate and market to them through traditional ways are dead, or on life support at best.

Social media is the new CRM!

Warren Whitlock

You essentially summed up what I've been teaching for the past few years.
 
"Listen.. and Love"
 
Social media is not "media" in the way we used the mass media of the last century. For the first time, we have the technology to LISTEN en masse. The LOVE means we have to respond as our market would like. not a canned message.. but "I hear you.." and then we ACT to respond to what they tell us.
 
It's a simple as that.
 
I stay away from catch phrase like " ________ marketing" .. engagement isn't something you order up from the marketing department.. it's a change in how you run the company.

Gil Yehuda

I agree in part. Engagement marketing has proven valuable. But it has not yet proven to be effective for a huge collection of companies where customers have no strong emotional attachment. In other words, I'm tired of hearing the same examples, dell, Comcast, best buy... Why not other lesser known brands? Non-US brands? Products that are needed, not just disposable income type things like computers, cable TV, or coffee.

So Starbucks is cool, Dell and Comcast have done good. What about you dry cleaner? The place you buy bagels? An auto repair shop? Your real estate agent? Insurance company? Or the place you buy shirts? It's not so clear that they can be effective, or that people care about engagement. Sometimes a postcard about cleaning my sofa chimney or gutter is all I need to remind me that it's a good idea.

You might enjoy the united breaks guitar song/story. But seriously, if they are $75 cheaper on a $750 flight to your vacation spot, would you insist on a different airline? Do you really want you auto mechanic on twitter (and then charge you a bit more to pay for the intern who is tweeting or responding)?

Some companies are labor intensive, some product, some service. Which is ideal for engagement? I don't know. And I have not yet seen clarity on this - just a general message to "be there on twitter, get on Facebook, write a blog". Ok - but is this really for every company?

So I think that we'll have to think really hard to see what about Comcast, et al is so special that makes this work, and then who else is in the same category. Does it have to do with price sensitivity? Demographics? Or some other factor (e.g buying cable is a commitment?, a lifestyle choice etc.)

I'm hoping that in 2010 we'll start to get better at applying interactive and engagement marketing to the right types of companies and leveraging alongside other marketing approaches.

So yes, I think this is "real". It's almost a throwback to the old bar "where everybody knows your name". And yet, in some cases customers just want speed, savings, or maybe even non-human transactions. And so many boomer generation folks are so distrusting of anything on the internet, there is a whole population segment for which this will be much less effective.

So I think we have a bit more to learn about what works and where. And then, yes, we'll see interaction and engagement marketing used more and more.
Just my candid random thoughts.

John's reply: I wonder if engagement marketing isn’t working because companies don’t have a handle on how to engage yet. It’s interesting but Starbucks, Dell and Comcast all had problems and have used social media to solve those problems. Maybe if you are content, you don’t delve into social media.

Perhaps I should say that the recession will drive more innovation on the part of companies because they are looking for ways to get out of the recession.

As for small companies using social media, I think there are some good examples, though I take your point about other factors being more important. There was the example of a coffee shop in Texas that uses twitter, and receives orders using the service.

Gil's reply: It may be that companies are content, or that social media consultants have them "doing it all wrong" (I've seen examples of poor attempts at engagement marketing where this happens). Or any host of reasons that it is not yet a mainstream behavior.

I think engagement marketing has proven value in many famous cases, and has yet to prove absolute revolutionary and universal value. It seems like a great tool for some. The question is if it is great approach for all. Where it works and why it might not work.

My view is cautious positivism. I think we have more to learn to see how this works. And I believe we are at the stage where we can soon study the successes and failures of less famous attempts at this. Yes, some pizza places will get more order. But when will they get more orders? Does it make a difference where they are? In a college town? In a rural area? Ethnic? Etc. I bet it does. Now we need to figure out how and why this could impact effectiveness. Then we'll be in a better position to understand how and when to leverage engagement marketing.

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