How to Understand and Develop Better Social Marketing Media Engagement

SMM Engagement

How to Understand and Develop Better Social Marketing Media Engagement

The term “engagement” is used a lot in social media as what marketers should do.  This article is about what you should understand and consider in relation to social marketing media behaviours and you should be doing in order to effectively “engage” and converse with your audience.

Web users have actively bookmarked their favourite websites and forwarded interesting articles to their friends for some time. These actions are a form of consumer engagement that has changed rapidly in scope, degree, and importance during the onset of Web 2.0. Marketers have struggled to understand define this behaviour of engagement.  .

Customer engagement (CE) refers to the engagement of customers with one another, with an organisation or a brand.

Customer engagement marketing in a strategic context is based on establishing long-term engagement, encouraging customer loyalty and advocacy through word-of-mouth. With Customer Engagement marketers aim to create, stimulate or influence customer behaviour.  It is the concept and practise that enables you to respond to the fundamental changes in customer behaviour that the internet has brought about.  Learning about and leveraging customer contributions is an important source of competitive advantage

Social media marketing (SMM) is marketing using a group of Internet-based applications (media) that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.

Social media marketing is relatively new, but networking via the internet is not new per se.  Folk used to do it via emails.  In a broader sense the concept is much older because it is similar to in-person (including via the phone) networking.

Think of regular media as a one-way street where you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on television, but you have very limited ability to give your thoughts on the matter.

Social media, on the other hand, is a two-way street that gives you the ability to communicate too.

To get the most out of SMM networking you need to be active and so does (most of) your group.

Social media engagement

Social media engagement is as an activity where a person is choosing to interact with other people. They are actively interested in participating in the online community.  They want to talk to other people with similar interests and needs and perhaps actively interested in helping others out.

In reality few people really do that. Certainly almost everyone has days they are more active than others.  But many folk who are registered in some SM groups rarely (if ever) make contact and are not actively participation.  They do not “converse”. Perhaps they are still “actively engaged in that they are avid followers – but from my own experience and study, the likely expectation is that few are really engaged.

You’ve got to front up enough in your target audiences lives for them to know you exist.  You need to say things so they understand who you are and what you are about and want to find out more about you. This means you need to be consistent in your activities and you need to show interest in others in your group.

The degree of engagement

Measurement of engagement is partially found in website visits and clicks, but equally found in conversations joined, comments responded to, and also in the sentiments people express about your business or yourself. What needs to be factored into engagement measurement is the success of building relationships

What Engages People?

In order to succeed in Social Marketing Media it is vital that you understand some of the thinking and psychology behind the reason why people (potential buyers) like things.  Many things might engage people, but you need tofocus on the broad heading of “self-interest

Interest – the emotion prompting attention or curiosity

Self-interest generally refers to a focus on the needs or desires (interests) of oneself.  It also encompasses indirect self-interest, which is any situation in which the interests of others match one’s own, so that serving one will lead to serving the other

Altruism – is a concern for the welfare of others.


Self-interest is part of human motivation. People choose to do (or not to do) things because they are “motivated”. Motivations are drives and desires can be described as a deficiency or need that activates behaviour that is aimed at a goal or an incentive.

You need to understand and  think about what motivates people to engage in social media sites that you have an interest in being involved with (directly or indirectly)

Incentive to engage

An incentive is a reward, tangible or intangible, that is expected as a result of a chosen activity.  If received it causes the behaviour to occur again. This is done by associating positive meaning to the behaviour.  Incentive theory treats motivation and behaviourof the individual as they are influenced by beliefs, such as engaging in activities that are expected to be profitable.

Motivation and need theory

The American psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the well-known Hierarchy of Needs theory which may be summarised as follows:

  • Human beings have wants and desires which influence their behaviour. Only unsatisfied needs influence behaviour, satisfied needs do not.
  • Since needs are many, they are arranged in order of importance, from the basic to the complex.
  • The person advances to the next level of needs only after the lower level need is at least minimally satisfied.

When trying to understand why people engage or do not engage in SM, look at Maslow’s theory with particular reference to:

Safety needs – motivating engagement with a view to obtaining protection from doing the wrong thing – For example buying unsafe products.

Belongingness needs – motivating engagement as being part of a group and exchanging with others

Esteem needs – motivating engagement to develop or reinforce self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status and prestige

Self-Actualisation needs – motivating engagement via a group to realise personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Degrees of Engagement

Engagement is not a single conceptual position, but rather a continuum of positions.  People will have different levels of engagement depending on the situation; their interests and personalities

The following consumer typology according to degree of engagement fits well to Ghuneim’s continuum.

  • Creators (the smallest group)
  • Critics
  • Collectors
  • Couch Potatoes (largest group)

What do Buyers Want?

What to remember when seeking their engagement

The following suggestions will help you succeed more often in your efforts to engage with your customers or potential customers:

1)  Buyers always like things that represent value – that is what they perceive they are getting is greater than what they have to invest.  This is much more relevant than a simple low price.  It certainly includes their time and potential risk

2)  Buyers want as much quality as they can get for their investment.

3)  Buyers like to feel good as often as possible.  When you feel good you smile.

4)  Buyers often like things which they associate with past good feelings, and nostalgia.

5)  Buyers like things when they represent the next natural stage in their on-going relationship with what they want to be.

6)  Buyers like things that appeal to (all or some of) their senses.  Not as much to their intellect

7)  Buyers like things which are a demonstration of their preferred lifestyle and/or of the ideological stance they have taken or which they wish they had.

8)  Buyers tend to like things to agree with what their friends and other peer groups expect.

9)  Buyers tend to like things because they are already familiar and comfortable with them.

Engagement and Buyer Behaviour

Engagement is a characterisation of buyer behaviour, encompassing a host of sub-aspects of behaviour, such as.

Satisfaction: Satisfaction is simply the foundation, and the minimum requirement, for a continuing relationship with customers. Engagement extends beyond basic satisfaction.

Loyalty – Retention: Highly engaged consumers are more loyal. Increasing the engagement of target customers increases the rate of customer retention.

Word of Mouth promotion- advocacy: Highly engaged customers are more likely to engage in free (for the company), credible (for their audience) Word of Mouth advertising. This can drive new customer acquisition and can have viral effects.

Increased effectiveness of communications: When customers are exposed to communication from an organisation that they are highly engaged with, they tend to actively elaborate on its central idea. This brings about high degrees of central processing and recall.

Complaint-behaviour: Highly engaged customers are less likely to complain to other current or potential customers.  They will address the company directly instead.

Active assistance: Highly engaged customers can give valuable recommendations for improving quality of offering.

Activity to Increase Engagement

Successful social marketing networks must develop and maintain some form of community for their members to interact and build their relationships.

Using a co-creation strategy to develop trust and reciprocity

Trust and reciprocity are two related ideas that will foster engagement

A co-creation strategy is likely to resonate with your target audience and encourages high levels of engagement.

A successful co-creation strategy involves both trust and reciprocity.

Reciprocity is the expectation that people will respond to each other in similar ways—responding to gifts and kindnesses from others with similar benevolence of their own

Trust is about the reliance on the integrity. Having confidence in someone

You need to leverage trust and reciprocity, to create stronger ties with the target audience. Examples of trust and reciprocity include: authenticity and transparency, real sharing of your thinking and decisions; helping each other within a group; asking contributors for their input and opinions. All of these are real engagement activities that strengthen relationships because they demonstrate an organisation’s ability to offer reciprocity and extend trust.


The social aspects of social marketing media can never be emphasised enough. Trying to get website traffic doesn’t mean much if you don’t provide a reason for people to care.  What you think they care about may be exactly what they don’t care about. You can’t really learn what they care about until you start to interact with them as people as opposed to prospects.

Engaging in the conversation will do more for your marketing than just telling them about your product/brand and posting links to your website. People have learned to ignore or skip past what isn’t relevant to them. They want to know how you can help them as well as whether you really care about them. You do need to care about them if you want them to interact with you. Engagement then really means developing relationships, sustaining them, and consequently creating an environment where people can trust you enough to want to do business with you.


The following are suggestions for developing engagement in order to get the very most out of your social (marketing) media interaction:

  • Discover all relevant communities of interest and observe the choices, of the people within each group.  Target those that you can offer something to and those with whom you can communicate effectively.  If you are an academic sort, don’t try to sound like something else.  Same applies if you are a digi-generation sort.
  •  Contribute to social media discussions when you feel that what you have to say is relevant and appropriate. Your discussions should not be only about selling your products (both goods and services). Your main goal should be how you can contribute and help others.
  • Once you find a topic and discussion about which you feel passionate and/or you feel is extremely relevant to your business, jump right in. Engagement lets your new connections know about you and the better they get to know you, the more they will want to know you.
  • Your engagement approach is very important. There are several ways in which to engage with others online. You can choose to educate, converse or just offer comments that really don’t require a response from others but that you feel have value.
  • Observe the behavioural cultures within each network. Choose your social media groups extremely carefully. Your choices should be based on common interests, knowledge and your ability to contribute
  • Be gentle with people.
  • Build relationships with others with whom you are able to interact on a regular basis. The stronger your relationships with your online connections, the more they will trust you and consider you credible.
  • Earn connections through collaboration
  • Understand and be sensitive to the needs as well as the personalities of the other members of your groups. Your interaction with them will be determined by who they are as individuals and what you can help them with.
  • Learn to actively “listen” to the tone as well as the words being written.  Learn from each engagement
  • Make sure that you don’t just listen to the other members of your online groups. After you have really listened what they have to say, go to the next level.
  • Learn the differences between Telling, Selling and Talking-With
  • Try to glean information from your online discussions with others that will allow you to make improvements in your products.
  • Become a true participant in each community you wish to activate. Move beyond a transactional marketing approach to a relational marketing approach
  • Try not to get lost in the translation. Ensure your communication and intent is clear And that your tone and approach appropriate to the group and the situation
  • Depending on the situation, try to sound like you are happy to be there.  Sound like you are smiling and the you genuinely care for those you are conversing with
  • Create, contribute and reinforce service and value.
  • Embody the attributes you wish to portray and instil. Operate by a code of conduct
  • Through the establishment of online relationships, you need to give others the feeling that you are empowering them (through your knowledge) to help themselves in addition to helping them.
  • Try, whenever possible, to take your online relationships to the next level by also connecting face to face.
  • Try to be a “giver” much more than a “taker.” Of course, if each and every member of your online communities wants to give more than they receive, everyone’s needs will be taken care of.
  • Don’t just participate solely in your own domains related to your brand, etc. Participate where your presence is advantageous or has potential.
  • Introduce value, insight and direction with each engagement.
  • Reciprocate and recognise contributions from participants in your communities

Engagement Though Conversation Development

What is conversation?

We can think of conversation as two or more people talking and listening. They may be doing this either face-to-face or at a distance. It can be done via the spoken word or via sign or symbol (the most obvious case here is the use of social media forums on the internet).

Conversation is a social activity. We engage in it with others. To do this we need to think about their feelings, thoughts and needs. In turn, they too must think of us. We have to consider, for example, whether our words could upset or offend others; or whether they will help us in dealing with the matter in hand. Thus, if two or more people are to communicate, then they must:

  • Co-operate.
  • Think about others’ feelings and experiences.
  • Give each other room to talk.

In other words, talking – conversation – is a reciprocal process.

Conversation involves people understanding and agreeing about the topic to some extent.

Conversation involves an immediate response. There is not much of a time lag between the action of one person and the response of the other. This means, that what we say may be less thought out. Linked to this is the need for us to be tolerant of what is said to us in the heat of the moment.

Conversation entails certain commitments. For it to work, we have to trust in the others involved. When they say they will do something, for example, then we tend to have to take it at face value. At a minimum we have to be open to the possible truth of their words.

Conversation involves interpretation – and in filling the gaps. To make sense of what others are saying we often have to make leaps forward.  People cannot give us all the information we need right at the start. We put their words in context, make assumptions, and add in material to give shape to what they are saying.

Engagement and conversation is a complex activity.

It embodies rules and etiquette. It requires participants to possess skills that are improved with practice. Those who find it difficult to engage in conversation and dialogue inevitably have fewer chances to practise the art so tend to find themselves locked into a vicious circle.

Please let me know what you think?  Add your comments and share your thoughts and insights on better SMM engagement and communication.

[i] A.H. Maslow, A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review 50(4) (1943):370-96

[ii] Mark Ghuneim, Terms of Engagement Measuring the Active Consumer, Mar 26, 2008


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