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The term “engagement” is bandied about ad nauseam these days, with many businesses obsessing over metrics that matter little to their bottom lines. As a result, the concept of engagement has an undeserved black eye and a whole bunch of confusion around what works and what is much ado about nothing. 

So what is working when it comes to engagement? Let’s start with what isn’t.

Don’t Try This at Home

Measuring success in likes and follows. Ever see a page on Facebook that has millions of followers and only a handful of likes per post and very few comments? Those followers are worthless and exist purely for show. 

This is fine for some efforts (like places that sell followers, for example). For anyone else it’s a sad case of the Emperor’s New Clothes, and everyone is too afraid to tell you. Get dressed and get rid of that page! You’re better off starting fresh with real followers (that will convert) than wasting your time by sharing content with fake ones.

Focusing on authenticity without really knowing what it means. Time to splash some cold water on your face and shake this one off. Anyone talking “authenticity” should immediately define what they mean or should not use the word when discussing your engagement efforts. Having general conversations around this mysterious authenticity wastes lots of time in organizations -- and online. Here’s a whole post that speaks to this witchcraft

So what does authenticity mean? And is it important? Yes, it’s important, but all it really means is this: To Thine Own Brand Be True. Figure out who your company is and who your target audience is -- and then gear your communications to speak directly to this audience’s needs, wants, fears and loves in the context of what your brand can provide. Be consistent with your authentic self, and the target audience will follow, flourish and convert.

Now to what works:

Get Everyone on Board Now

Employee advocacy. If you have any staff to speak of, they are your best brand advocates (assuming you’ve trained them in proper online protocols and privacy behaviors), and should be treated as such. Figure out where they’re participating online and what are their individual strengths. Some may be social media savants, others exceptional writers, and you likely even have a few content curators waiting to be discovered. The key is to not force any of those square pegs into round holes and to create action plans for each that make you both feel successful.

Micro-targeting. If you have any budget to speak of, you should be investing a bit in sophisticated social listening tools. Your options there are legion -- from predictive targeting and sentiment analysis to segmenting your audience to suit various campaigns. Cobbling together listening capabilities on your own (though certainly possible) is archaic, time-consuming and will hamper you against your competitors. Embrace micro-targeting before social makes the next jump without you.

It depends. Having a dedicated digital strategist on staff really is essential, as there are too many wildcards to list when it comes to engagement options available. 

Are you a restaurant? How are you encouraging/capturing/leveraging reviews? 

Consumer goods? Which consumer behaviors are you tracking -- and how? What are your competitors tracking, and are they using this data to steal your share of basket?

Law firm? How are you finding new clients -- or are you assuming they’ll find you? Bad assumption, particularly if you’re not active online.

Even social technology sites face significant struggles -- actually more so than most, as the competition is fierce. The online game in every industry is constantly changing, and without dedicated staff focusing on yours, you can’t be nimble or quick. And you will soon get burned by that candlestick.

Is your brand masterfully engaging online or just going through the motions? It’s time to sort that out.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  Liam Quinn