As I mentioned in “Do Your Homework”, I’m teaching an Organizational Change and Advanced Management class at a local college. A couple of weeks ago I was discussing the impact of Social Media on the workplace and I began the discussion by posing the question: “what is social media?” After some back-and-forth, I put up a quote from Avinash Kaushik, an Analytics Evangelist at Google:
“Social media is like teen sex. Everyone wants to do it. Nobody knows how. When it’s finally done, there is surprise it’s not better.”
After the laughter subsided we looked at a more serious definition from Wikipedia: “Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue”.
After further discussion, and a challenge to reduce the ‘business speak’, the class defined Social Media as “a fancy way to describe the zillions of conversations people are having online 24/7”. They also observed that the word engage is thrown around a lot in social media as a way of describing what people (and organizations) should do.
When we refined the question to: “what is engagement in social media?” one of my more out-of-the-box students piped up with “sexting”, followed by more laughter. With a little more thoughtful discussion we honed the definition down to “an activity where a person is purposefully choosing to interact with other people or an organization”.
But how many people or businesses really engage their customers? Josh Bernoff, who wrote Why marketers have trouble with full-duplex social technology, made the observation that: “The people in charge of talking are in the marketing department. The people in charge of listening are in the research or service or sales department. They hardly ever talk to each other, let alone have full-duplex conversations with customers.”
The social aspects of social media can never be emphasized enough. Trying to get website traffic doesn’t mean much if you don’t provide a reason for people to care; and you can’t really learn what they care about until you start to engage with them. Joining in the conversation will do more for your marketing than just posting links to your website. People want to know how you can help them, how you will engage with them.
Engagement means involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence. It means developing relationships, sustaining them, and creating an environment where people can trust you enough to want to do business with you. And, while customer engagement can be measured partially through website analytics and social monitoring, it is equally important to monitor and measure those points of engagement across your business where emotions create or destroy loyalty, satisfaction, advocacy, and desire.
Social Media may be many things to many people, but it is above all else, a dialogue. So the next time someone asks you about your company’s social media strategy, resist the urge to quote Avinash Kaushik and start with “conversations”.