The Rules of Engagement

Posted on Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 at 10:47 am by Engine Communications

This post is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants – an epic two-month journey of over 50 guest posts. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

You don’t need me to tell you, but the world of marketing and advertising has seen some pretty dramatic shifts over the past few years. Social Media is changing the face of the way companies do marketing. How? With the emphasis on B2C communication – tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are making it easier than ever for businesses to give and receive instant feedback from their customers.

But just because the tools are readily available, doesn’t mean businesses are using them to their maximum potential. The approach to Social Media has to be taken from a different angle than more “traditional” marketing mediums. Where selling, generating leads, and landing clients may be the end result – the approach with Social Media has to be to engage and build relationships first, before focusing on the sales pitch.

One thing that everyone can take a lesson in, and something I continue to work on myself – is the power of listening. Listen to what your customers are saying, pay attention to their conversations, and take note of their ideas. Becoming a good listener and eavesdropping at the right time and place is priority number one for Social Media marketing.

You’ll hear everyone tell you that listening is important – but that’s only the first step. The follow up, and most important element of communication is knowing WHEN to communicate. Those who are “doing it right” spend a considerable about of time listening, and when the time is right, take it to the next step and get involved.

What does “get involved” mean? At the end of the day, it’s about being a person first, a human representative and voice of your company. People don’t want to talk to a business – they want to talk to a person, they want a connection, a human on the other end of the line who genuinely cares about their wants and needs. If you’re that person on the other end, be yourself, be funny, share interesting and relevant information, become a resource for your community. Social Media works best when the line between personal and professional is blurred.

Once you’ve built a rapport with the members of your community, they’ll be more willing and accepting of your “sales” pitches. Engage first, sell second – A simple formula that’s often forgotten, but is the recipe of success for any business integrating Social Media into their marketing mix.

What examples do you have of businesses that are doing it right (or wrong) with Social Media?

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{ 11 comments to read ... please submit one more! }

  1. Thanks so much for taking the time to contribute to the blog, Matt! We always enjoy Life Without Pants, around here.

    I love the how you’ve simplified the social media ‘rules of engagement’ down to this one statement: “Engage first, sell second.” I do believe that’s the recipe for success. From a business standpoint, we all understand that the bottom line is to make money–to sell. However, the online space is a world inhabited by people. I don’t want a brand to talk to me–I want the people behind the brand to talk to me. Or I want them to create forums where I can learn about their product, engage with others, and take something of value away from the experience (tangible or intangible).

    That comes from fostering a culture of engagement first. It’s not enough to simply pitch a product. A great example of this is the non-profit organization One Day’s Wages. It’s co-founder, Eugene Cho, is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever interacted with online, or off. His use of social media tools is primarily for engagement, and he speaks directly to his friends/followers on a regular basis (amazing blog, a Fan Page that took off immediately, Twitter, and a great website with a built-in community where people can get involved and learn from each other). He’s understands community. The second step falls naturally into place–he ‘sells’ his product. In this case, people want to donate to his cause because of his transparency, openness, and let’s face it, he’s a cool guy. He follows your formula, and it works. What went from a small, almost non-existent non-profit at this time last year, has turned into New York Times-worthy news, all through the use of social media (and a lot of hard work).

    Thanks again for stopping by on your blog tour Matt! You always get me thinking.

  2. This is exactly how to sum up (in an essay page or less), how engagement should world. This is perfect to show a large section NGO that I volunteer how engagement works with your audience.
    I found with such an older membership inside an organization, the personalization it’s as present, and the stream of doing the “business” is high. Especially in such a generation where the online-realm has made actual real-life-face-to-face time less as important, engagement is a bigger factor than ever.

    A personal example of who is doing social media right is not an organization, but a personal couple from the states who are posting a video every day for 365 days. They have caught on fire all around the world, and it’s down to their engagement with their fans. In every video log, they are mentioning fans, asking for advice, telling them how to interact, and rewarding them. Not only in their video logs, but their tweets, and facebook updates. Their ultimate goal? To be a spin-off couple king and queen of the vlogging world (I have assumed). It’s their engagement everyone comes back for, regardless of how hilarious they are.

    You can catch these dynamic pair at @CharlesTrippy, and follow their links to their YouTube channel.

    Happy Festivus

  3. (Attaching this note)
    P.S – Please excuse my mis-spellings… The new keyboard and I are still getting to know each other.

  4. Hey Cal! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I haven’t heard of this couple! I’ll have to check them out for sure. It sounds like a great example of engagement to build online communities, and in the end, to ‘sell’ their product–in this case, themselves, and their vlogs.

    I think you posed a really good question about how we encourage an older generation in some of these businesses/non-profits to support online engagement efforts to build awareness, educate, and sell. It can be difficult to break down mindsets of what typically/historically works in terms of marketing.

    I think we who work in this arena on a daily basis, forget that there are many, many people who don’t. It’s difficult to convince them that without immediate hard results, their time/money is being well-spent through SM engagement. I think the more we can come together and discuss cases of where it’s done right, the more we build our own argument to take before naysayers in our businesses/organizations to show them that SM does in fact work, and is becoming de rigeur in terms of marketing and PR.

  5. You are right on the button on this. immediate, hard results. To me, I usually see this request through statistical results: membership numbers, e-newsletter signups etc.

    Especially in an organization that is just identifying how to properly use social networks like Facebook properly, it’s an ever gruelling task to have them learn about Twitter, LinkedIn, Wave, and others that are tech knowledge dense.

    Without the use of these social networks, many of our engagement strategies would go to the dogs, especially in our Youth Development department. A perfect example of this on my side, and not to shamelessly self-promote (had to see that coming), is our Write for Rights event tomorrow. This is held at multiple locations across Canada on Dec 10th, on Human Rights Day.

    This year, and just as of this morning we have over 19,500 registered writers for tomorrow all across Canada. Last year’s numbers didn’t even come close to touching this. We can firmly stand behind the belief that social networking through Twitter, Deqq (see Writeathon page), Facebook, Flickr, Youtube and anything we could get our hands on greatly improved our audience range, and the reception it received. Our personalization on over 50% of our tweets/updates vastly improved the audience engagement and their willingness to participate in something they felt they would promote a change for.

    The problem is taking this information back to a generation who isn’t keen on this type of work, is that the only statistical results we can present is the number of writers, and the number of click-through’s on links we have tweeted and posted. This doesn’t exactly represent the number of hard-worked man and woman hours that were put into achieving this. The usual view is: “So you put something on the internet and people clicked on it… great do that next year too.”. Not exactly how it worked, but more or less what happened. The ever growing task is making sure your pleasing your client (my bosses), and showing hard evidence is always a requirement of any organization or business who is spending either monetary assets, or man-power assets on something they passively are knowledge of.

  6. In addition to that, what strategies has other businesses seen work for them when companies/organization aren’t receptive to SM?
    How have you shown them the positives to going digital?
    How are you assessing their need for online presence?

  7. So many good questions! I’ve actually posed it to some others, with hopes that they might help.

    It’s really difficult to translate relationships as being hard results. Look at you and I, for example. We met via Twitter, and have since been able to develop a friendship through other social media tools, and meeting in person. That is a relationship of worth, as far as I see it. At times, you’ve become a brand ambassador for me, and I’ve become one for you. And a true ‘brand ambassador’ is priceless. But to quantify that is a very difficult thing. What are you going to tell your boss? “I made a new friend?” That doesn’t really work.

    However, building case studies around these occurances can. I’m actually thinking about your Amnesty Write-A-Thon right now, and the potential in that. We take the numbers, which we need, and then give them additonal worth by describing the processes involved in attaining those values. It’s not an either/or scenario. We need both. The crux of any type of qualitative versus quantitative argument, is that historically quantitative wins. How very ‘scientific method’ of us. But we can all admit that people don’t stop at numeric value.

    Maybe what’s needed is a shift in the way we value marketing/sales online?

    Here’s a quick example that I’ve asked to share. It’s very small, but it has value, so here goes:

    We have a great client, Connie Yrjola, who is a jewellery maker. The other day we blogged about a product shoot we did at her store (with her permission). By posting pictures here and on our Facebook Fan Page, Connie increased her audience by probably 300 unique viewers. That means something, and it turned into results. From those 300 views, she generated 30 fans for her Facebook Page, had at least one local jewellery store ask about collaboration, and had about 10 inquiries (that I know of) on pieces that we featured. That’s results. From one blog post.

    Now what we do is take those numbers, follow up, and create cases in a research-based, scholarly way. People want to know how this stuff works. I have a great case that I’ll post on our Facebook Fan Page for you where Nicholas Kristoff talks about SM and non-profits. You’ll love it.

    Hope some of that helps.

  8. Hey Bryna, Thanks for the comment and the encouraging words…Let me accentuate “HARD WORK.”

    I tell folks that we all have to beware of the extremes of social media: That is is the savior of your business, org, NGO or that it’s just a fad.

    It’s a mode of communication so it’s important to ask:

    1. who are you?
    2. what’s your message?
    3. who’s your audience?
    4. so what?

    another three principles that guide me in nearly everything:
    – everyone wants to be loved
    – everyone wants to be heard
    – everyone wants to be part of something Bigger

    great post.

  9. @callumpinkney (Callum) good questions. I’ve found showing them vs telling them seems to work the best. Whether that is showing them how consumers are speaking about their brand or maybe the category or actually going out and doing small demonstration or proof of concept trials that can be made into case studies which demonstrate you have a god point and that real marketing challenges can be solved with SocMe.

    Here is a post that is a pretty good example (it’s mine so I’m biased) of a show and tell experiment.

    Hope this helps.

  10. Thanks Eugene and Tom for taking the time to post your thoughts. I know you’re both very busy! Thanks for the advice, and the link. I’ll be checking it out, and I’m sure Cal will too.

  11. Eugene, and Tom:

    Thanks for the great advice on how to handle this. The information you presented definietly helped me conjur up some great ideas to present to a large membership driven NGO (especially when most correspondance is via the Internet)

    once again, thanks a ton!

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