“Social media engagement.” It's a phrase that generates a lot of buzz, but what does it actually mean? And, more importantly, why does it matter to companies that are integrating social media into their PR and marketing strategies?
We turned to some of the leading communication experts to discover the importance of sparking online engagement and how this new focus has forced PR, marketing and advertising campaigns to evolve.
Defining Social Media Engagement
Ask five people to define engagement, and you'll likely receive five different answers. Liz Hawks, SVP and global co-chair of FH Moms Practice, explained it like this: "Engagement is speaking with her (in this case, Mom) where she is, when she is looking for info and in the way she is looking for it."
Rob Clark, Edelman's director of insights and measurement, suggests thinking about engagement as the step from attention to action. "This may be a one-click social gesture such as a digg or like, or it may be a blog post written in response with a trackback, or it may be a letter written in response to an online campaign. All are a level of engagement," he explains.
Likewise, Chuck Hemann, vice president of digital strategy and analytics for Ogilvy 360DI and author of the upcoming Social Media Metrics for Dummies, agrees that retweets, comment, or "shares," are all forms of engagement. However, he cautions that companies need to dig deeper. "If you look at retweets only, for example, what is the net impact of a retweet? Now, if you looked at retweets in combination with clicks (ideally clicks-per-post), now you’re headed in the right direction."
5 Ways Social Media Engagement Enhances Communication Campaigns
While experts may disagree about exact definition of “engagement,” there is one thing they all agree on: Social media, and specifically the ability to engage with stakeholders, has changed PR and marketing.
"Social media has completely changed our work, and when executed well, it has positive implications for multiple divisions, from consumer insights to product development/innovation to marketing to corporate reputation," says Hawks.
Let's take a closer look at some of these changes.
All across the web, Internet users are "liking" and following brands, leaving reviews and posting comments, thereby creating a massive amount of data points from which marketers can learn.
"Developing all of our engagement campaigns on a foundation of consumer-behavior data helps ensure that our efforts will indeed resonate -- that she will be active with our messages rather than passive," explains Hawks.
Hemann encourages brands to think about two "buckets" of metrics: behavioral and diagnostic. Behavioral includes everything from shares to sales, while diagnostic metrics are more tool-specific, such as impressions of a Facebook Page or likes-per-post.
A core element of social media revolves around conversation. Online conversation follows the same patterns as "offline" conversations — it requires both talking and listening. If brands are always talking, they're not listening, and if they're not listening, they won't understand the audience's needs.
Or, as Hawks puts it, "[Social media] has helped us to better understand our audiences — ‘listening’ to their dialogue either validates insights we have or teaches us new insights. It leads with the consumer's needs, rather than the brand's desires, which completely flips traditional models."
By monitoring online conversations about your brand, industry, product or related services, you can strengthen product development, customer service and a variety of other core business functions.
Before social media, companies relied on traditional PR, marketing and advertising to deliver messages to target audiences. Often, a "middle man" (such as a newspaper reporter) ultimately determined what was written or said. With marketing and advertising, companies could maintain control over the message, but these mediums also lacked a mechanism to collect immediate feedback and real-time interactions.
This ability to bypass gatekeepers and facilitate direct interactions with consumers and communities is one of the most important aspects of social media. As a result, communicators can be more efficient, responsive, helpful and resourceful.
Clark says, "Social media lets us identify the people we need to talk to, and the people we want to talk to. It gives us the chance to build, track and maintain the relations we have with our stakeholders with the added benefit of taking conversational communication and preserving it for an audience to witness and add to."
Companies shouldn't expect to generate overnight results via social media. After all, building and activating a network takes time. "Social media does tend to create a false sense of hope for immediate results. However, showing performance in social does take time," says Hemann.
That said, communicators should take advantage of real-time feedback. Monitor online feedback and conversations — or lack thereof — and adjust as needed.” This gives us a great opportunity to maintain some level of control. If something's not working, you can fix it now rather than waiting until the campaign is over to find out if it was a success or failure, says Hawks.
Incept, a Canton, Ohio-based call center, was making cold calls to recruit blood donors. But, they knew people weren't sitting at home, waiting for a blood drive phone call, so they needed to turn to other channels to connect with potential donors. They turned to social media, creating Twitter accounts for their employees, as well as a blog and Facebook Page. Since training and empowering their employees to post content, interact and build networks, Incept has reduced average monthly turnover from almost 20% monthly to 8% per month, creating an annual direct cost savings of nearly $200,000. Additionally, Sam Falletta, president and chief results officer, says Incept has picked up two new clients from relationships that began on Facebook.
What Does This Look Like In Action?
Hallmark, along with agency partner Fleishman-Hillard, established consistent touchpoints for moms to connect with like-minded peer moms, influencers and Hallmark itself by providing contextually relevant content that women will want to spend time with, share and act on. According to Hawks, the content comes from multiple locations -- including Hallmark, third-party experts and other moms. Hawk explains that Hallmark leverages a variety of PR, advertising and other channels to gain moms' time, information and — ultimately — action or transaction.
Read the full post at Mashable