Warren Sukernek gave his opinion: "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."
Warren's statement gives me pause for thought, and reflection. I do however think that it is possible for a company to conduct active engagement with a community. The process for engagement is listening, triage, response, metrics and taking action. Individuals have to take the lead in outreach and response, but they can be supported by colleagues and a social CRM system.
Triage involves the process of identifying and classifying a social media post, tweet or listing. Is the article a complaint, an idea, a suggestion, a PR crisis, unrelated to your product, but related to the wider discussion in your industry. These are all possible ways to classify content from your community.
A response will require different resources. Customer service handles complaints and issues, PR crisis = public affairs, and thought leadership issues are handled by your subject matter experts.
A CRM system can track any events; manage the triage classification, the response, and quality check to see if there is any ensuing conversation.
We have the tools in place to manage such a process, we can also determine the results from such responses, either tracking people individually for responses on your site or across the web, or discover the results from calls to actions.
Perhaps it would be easier to persuade people of the need and ROI of engagement practices, if Google provided a list of links that helped with the ranking of a company website on the Google search engine.
Conversations between websites, essentially blogs, help with an organic linking strategy, instead of asking for a link the link is given because of the quality of the content, or the quality of the conversation.
Warren went onto say, "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."
I agree with Warren that just responding to people because they mentioned your brand is at best self centered and at worst annoying. But if there's a triage process in place to assess each community post for the need for a response, I don't see any problem with such a tactic.
That's just one aspect of engagement. Another is conducting a dialogue with colleagues in your community for the purposes, of learning, building relationships, sharing content with your community.
This draft extract from my 2007 book, Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging illustrates.
"The process of conversation between blogs involves picking another blogger’s post you are interested in discussing and then writing a blog article that references the original article. Make sure you link to the other article, especially if you quote the blogger. Reference the name of the blogger, and the name of the blog and perhaps the title of the article. You will not always have to include all of this information, however thoroughness in citing other people’s work will demonstrate that you are respectful of the other people’s published work.
Concentrate on the dialogue in the community when you are engaged in a discussion with your colleagues in your blogging community. Don’t be tempted to introduce your own sales agenda, just because you have sales goals to meet. Writing a blog is not the same as writing an advertisement. Although the payoff with advertising copy can be immediate, someone reads an ad, is motivated to respond and buys your product. The payoff in blogging is having the dialogue with your audience and blogging community. The dialogue demonstrates your expertise, involvement in the community and what it is like to work with your company. People get to experience you, the company, and the value of your brand through how you write and converse with the community on a blog."