Book Review: Social Marketology & The Study of Customer Engagement
How does a brand become more of a person and become a part of the conversation? This is one of the first questions Ric Dragon asks in his book Social Marketology: Improve Your Social Media Processes and Get Customers to Stay Forever. In order to answer it, Mr. Dragon attempts to examine and make sense of the patterns demonstrated by social media behaviors, identify the value added to an organization through their social media marketing and creating strategies that are flexible and customizable.

Patterns of Engagement

It's no surprise that users act differently across different platforms. We all do it. Facebook may be where your close friends and family gather, while Twitter is where your colleagues share information. Pinterest is for scrapbooking your dream vacation, while Google Plus lets you organize your business contacts. The way you act, the things your share and how you interact varies across these social media platforms.

But you didn't go to these platforms specifically for these types of behaviors. Most likely, over time you figured out what it was best used for or the types of people who gathered there, you determined your comfort level, which then determined what you wanted to say and share with them. It's these types of engagement in which you can find patterns. Dragon likens the way behaviors are identified online to "college campus developers who postpone installing sidewalks until they see the 'desire lines,' or paths made by people in the grass." 

Companies who set up profiles and pages across social media need to consistently look for patterns of user behavior so they can appropriately tailor their messages and engagement. Look for how people identify themselves, what they share, their relationships to others and the types of conversations that result. According to Dragon, identifying social media behaviors as patterns will "help in the analysis of engagements so that you can assign value to those engagements." 

Assessing Value

Speaking of assigning value to consumer engagements on social media, Dragon suggests defining what drives your company's social media efforts to begin with. What are your organization's vision, values and mission? Not only do these identifiers help guide all business actions and provide teams with focus, they can also help develop your brand's unique voice.

When people engage with your brand, how do their behaviors align against these goals? If they're highly aligned, their contributions on that platform in response to a particular message are valuable and are helping your brand relate to others. How consistent is your brand's voice? And what value does your brand bring to its followers?

The book illustrates a series of helpful scenarios, so that readers can learn how to develop their brand's personality and voice in an effort to humanize it. The next steps outline how to identify user segments, develop user communities and influence behaviors.

Putting It Into Action

Once you've been able to accurately identify patterns of engagement, craft your brand's personality and overall vision, you can begin to design a strategy that not only outlines who's in charge, what types of content is being created and curated, but also is able to evolve alongside new technologies, trends and user behaviors.

It's about listening, monitoring and responding appropriately and responsively. But as much as you can prepare for social media marketing, there's always the unexpected. Perhaps my favorite chapter is the one called "Egg on Your Face: Avoiding the Big Mistakes," in which Dragon tries to best identify the things that can derail a social media marketing plan or cause a brand to lose credibility.

Overall Social Marketology is a good read for both the beginner and the more experienced marketer. It will concisely explain social media basics to your boss, while providing enough nuggets of social media gold that can satisfy the advanced community manager. Best of it, it accepts that things are always changing but offers the fundamental principles of social marketing success.