It’s All about Engagement
When it comes to creating a social media marketing strategy, most marketers will agree that engagement is one of the key parameters to be considered. Although the ‘likes’ and the ‘followers’ to some extent indicate the popularity of a brand or the success of an online campaign, these metrics are only the tip of the iceberg. Successful engagement is defined by measurable results (sales and revenue) and a loyal customer base. According to a recent study by Marketingprofs:
- People who are engaged with brands via social media are more emotionally connected to those brands and spend between 20-40% more on buying various products when compared to other customers.
- What’s interesting is that social media engagement appears to drive the highest spending lift among unenthusiastic customers or the ‘Passives’.
These numbers show the deep correlation between engagement and returns, making it imperative for marketers to connect with their customers online. However, before having a social media presence on every channel out there, it is essential to determine a) what exactly you wish to achieve by engaging with certain demographics and b) then proceed to understand the precise factors driving it. In our previous blog, Position2 talked about how to engage audiences on social media. Along with a clear understanding of the ‘how to’ aspect of engagement, it is also important for brands to define the KPIs of their social media engagement strategy. In this article, we trace the journey that begins with determining limits of engagement, covers the important metrics an online marketer should keep in mind, and ends with measuring the outcome of your engagement strategy and determining how successful it actually is.
- Too Much Engagement vs. Too Little: Overwhelming online audiences with more than they can handle increases the possibility of losing customers and/or fans and followers. Similarly, long periods of absence from a networking site with an occasional tweet or post can leave fans and followers frustrated with their inability to connect with your brand. This brings us to the question...is it possible for brands to determine limits and find the middle ground between too much vs. too little engagement? While it is difficult to say that ‘x’ number of tweets or posts will help achieve the perfect balance, here are some suggestions that will help draw the line.
- Overdoing it: One of the biggest reasons why brands sometimes go overboard with tweets or Facebook and LinkedIn posts is because of unclear objectives. The first and the most important rule ofsocial media engagement that marketers need to keep in mind is that it is a ‘two-way’ street . This means you need to give some room for response and allow comments from audiences instead of posting a continuous stream of tweets and updates. The @RealDuncanHines Twitter handle for instance, features far too many tweets than recommended, with less-than healthy engagement levels. Sometimes, it is wise to pull back and allow fans to assimilate the content posted and respond/react.
- When There’s Too Little Engagement: There are times when marketers wonder why their content is not being shared enough or why their subscribers list hasn’t grown over the last few months. Although the reasons for this could be many, we found that inadequate engagement is one of them. If too much engagement is one extreme, too little activity is the other. In our opinion, the lack of social media activity can reflect poorly on your company’s efforts to connect and interact with users. Here’s something to ponder over; If there isn’t enough content or as many posts, then what would audiences share or comment on?
- Balancing it Out: While researching casestudies on how some brands have managed to strike the perfect balance between being overactive and maintaining just the right levels of activity and engagement, we came across the NBA brand. What makes NBA, with +3,000,000 followers and +1,000,000 fans , one of the most powerful brands on Twitter and Facebook? The answer is engagement. The @NBA handle not only boasts an impressive amount of retweets and ‘thank you’s’, but also is prompt in answering questions addressed to them; and they do all this without being too overbearing.
- Key Metrics Every Online Marketer Should Consider: Online marketers engaging with customers on social media do so with two main objectives in mind; a) immediate, measurable benefits like sales, revenues and returns b) long-term benefits like building a loyal customer base and converting fans and followers to brand advocates. These may be the outcome of successful engagement. However, in order to get there, there are some key metrics of social media engagement that every smart marketer should consider.
- Comments & Feedback: Comments contributed to blogs and videos, reviews, feedback etc are positive signs. These metrics a) indicate the level of involvement fans have with brands b) show that they are actually listening and c) feel that the content is interesting enough to respond to. The Volkswagen Force commercial on YouTube for instance, was not only one of the top viral videos during February 2011, but also registered over 31,000 comments from fans and viewers. When fans and followers are active in their discussions pertaining to your brand, it then becomes the marketer’s responsibility to take the discussion forward and increase engagement levels.
- Downloads & Subscriptions:
Downloads and subscription requests are among crucial, measureable metrics. These simply indicate that your customers are interested in what you have to say and that they would like to know more/take it further. Increase in subscription requests and downloads means more opportunity for marketers to convert these interested few into leads and loyal customers.
- Shares: A recent study by AOL and Nielsen shows that people who share via social media are also likely to be sharing via multiple platforms. According to the study, 99% of people who share content via social media also use email to share content. Social media shares thereby increase the possibility of a company’s content, posts etc being read by a wider audience. Social media shares include retweets, sharing interesting blog posts and Facebook content, bookmarks on Delicious etc. Shares not only increase the reach of your brand, but also show that your fans and followers find something you posted worthy and interesting enough to tell someone else.
- Page/Content Views: Although not as reliable as the other engagement metrics, page and content views are nevertheless important KPIs of involvement. Increase in number of visitors to a social media page may not always mean increase in downloads or subscription requests. However, these metrics point to how many people were exposed to your brand online.
- Facebook Fans/Like, Followers, and Recommendations: To completely dismiss the ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ as unimportant engagement metrics is not something we recommend. While we agree that the number of fans , ‘likes’ and recommendations are not accurate representations of a brand’s popularity and engagement levels, they nevertheless , mean that the user has taken that crucial step beyond just viewing or browsing through your brand’s webpage. This also opens up the opportunity for marketers to start a relationship with people who have expressed obvious interest in their brand(s).
- Measuring Social Media Engagement: After establishing the key engagement metrics, the most important and final step would be to measure the outcome of your social media engagement strategy. Simply engaging with fans, interacting with them and counting the number of ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ is a task half finished. The final piece of the puzzle involves using social media monitoring tools like Brand Monitor to know ‘how’ engaged your brand actually is. This will help determine if your online marketing and engagement plan needs tweaking or is due for a revamp. Let us look at how monitoring tools help measure the extent of your brand’s social media engagement and why it is necessary to do so:
- Engaging in Relevant Conversations: While it is great to see a sudden spurt in conversations pertaining to your brand, it is impractical and time-consuming to actually respond to every post or tweet. This is where social media monitoring helps. By sifting through the noise and presenting only the pertinent conversations that need immediate response, brands can engage in relevant conversations and better connect with customers.
- The Need for Sentiment Analysis: While comments and feedback are important KPIs, the numbers of comments are not always indicators of a healthy engagement. This is better understood by studying the example of Nestle. When the Nestle PR crisis over the use of palm oil broke out, the networking space was overflowing with comments, discussions and opinions. The message for online marketers from this example is clear; while the increase in comments puts your company in the ‘most discussed’ list, it is important to monitor the tonality of conversations by analyzing the sentiment associated with them. Monitoring the sentiment is a good way of gauging how best a brand can interact with its customers in the future and if the current PR crisis plan needs a fix.
- Measuring the Likes, Followers & Page Views: It is manually impossible to count the number of ‘likes’ a company has registered or by how much the followers list has grown. Also, considering how many people view a company page online every day, it is impossible to get the precise numbers manually. However, in order to proceed to the next step that involves connecting with the audiences who have expressed interest in your brand requires knowing the exact numbers. The simplest and the quickest way to do this? Use social media monitoring tools.
- Tracking Brand Mentions: Audiences mentioning your brand online, using certain keywords related to a recently launched campaign or certain hashtags while discussing your brand, is great news for visibility. However, tracking this important metric in an overcrowded social media space and across the plethora of networking channels can be tedious process, if not for monitoring tools. Monitoring tools help you know a) how many times your brand in being mentioned b) what kind of people are talking about your brand (the influencers) and c) on what channels is it being discussed.
Social media marketers know that the level of engagement greatly influences returns in terms of sales and revenues. However, it is advisable to define the key engagement metrics important to their brand before diving in head first. Prior to engaging with customers and fans online, it is important for brands to understand how engaging with a certain demographic is beneficial to their brand. Besides saving time, this helps establish the KPIs of engagement. While the list of engagement metrics discussed above is not exhaustive, it nevertheless covers the key metrics every marketer should consider. Although sales and profits are direct, quantifiable benefits of engagement, the other, equally crucial, advantages include building a strong and loyal customer base. This, in our opinion, gives a better picture of how engaged a company really is.
Driving visitors to a site by meticulously planning the engagement strategy and defining metrics is usually number one on most marketers’ to-do list. Nevertheless, brands need to go one step further and measure the outcome of their efforts. Irrespective of what the metrics are, brands should consider using social media monitoring tools to evaluate the impact of their engagement strategy. Measuring metrics helps you know if you are really engaged and if you need to rethink your engagement strategy. They also add value to brands’ social media engagement by allowing marketers to understand the sentiment associated with the brand and presenting only the relevant conversations that need to be acted upon. While most brands today have their online engagement metrics in place, it is encouraging to see a significant increase in those making that extra effort to measure the level of connectivity and interaction with customers and look for ways to improve this further. According to Brian Solis, “the A.R.T. of social media is in the actions, reactions and transactions you can shape and steer’. Mastering this ‘A.R.T’ is easy... provided brands determine the limits of engagement, define the factors that drive it and assess the impact of their engagement strategy.