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Don't Just Update Your Audience. Engage!

I was speaking with a client the other day who wanted very badly for us to create him a business page on Facebook. The first question I ask a client who asks for this is "what is it for?" Invariably, the response is "you tell me, you're the expert and everyone seems to have one. I feel like we're missing out."

I'm not going to lie. While Facebook can and should be a very useful medium for most if not all brands, Facebook, or any other social network you may want to utilize in a social media marketing plan needs a real engaging content strategy and a budget to go with it. 

In conversations with clients, it is important for us to stress the difference between what is content and what is engaging content because many clients think that providing multiple status updates on their Facebook page everyday is considered engagement.

Don't get me wrong. It is important to keep social pillars current with relevant updates, be it original content, or links to third party material. But to truly engage, you need to provide something much more profound than a bunch of links.  True engagement comes from empowering, involving and inspiring your audience to perform an action that they otherwise would not perform, all under the guise of your brand. That is not easy to achieve, which is why agencies such as mine (shameless Blend360 plug) can charge fees for putting a cohesive interactive strategy together.

Take a look at some of the most engaging social case studies and you will find some truly creative, unique and revolutionary executions. But you don't need the "best idea you've ever had" to be engaging. Just be smart about what content and activities you are serving up and ask these questions to put your content strategy to the engagement litmus test:

1) Does my content strategy provoke the user to provide their own insights?
Be purposefully controversial in a status update or tweet, ask direct questions by crowd sourcing your audience or find ways to otherwise tap into what you know your audience to be passionate about. It is vital that the content you put up for discussion will actually spark a discussion! Being preachy, promotional or uninteresting to your audience will not just fall short of engaging with them, it will actually serve to disengage.

2) Do I have any contests, games or applications in my content strategy?
Give your audience something fun to do and tap into the competitiveness of humankind. A sweepstakes here and there is great, provided it's relevant to your brand, but your content strategy should recognize that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are now and have always been pastimes, as in "passing the time." It is a place where people go to escape, even for a minute or two. Keep them there longer by giving them something to do! But be careful. This part of your overall content strategy is the most complex and most costly to execute. So make sure you get your money and time's worth. Don't ask your audience for something that doesn't in any way connect to your brand and what it stands for. Make sure there is that connection to avoid false engagement. This is where some of the most talked about initiatives are born, and doing it right can send your brand through a viral thunderstorm that can keep your brand top of mind for years to come.

3) Is my content exclusive?
If I can find the content you are providing on Wikipedia, chances are you need to re-think your content strategy. It's fine to link to brand relevant content around the World Wide Web, but that should just be for keeping your pages fresh and rewarding in that they provide some interesting information resources to your audience. It is imperative that the majority of your content be unique. It is also a good idea to provide some content that is not available anywhere else, like an interview with the CEO.

4) Do I invite my audience into my brand?
I like to call this one a "customer empowerment strategy". This  is the biggie for me. Whatever is being done in any aspect of any marketing communications plan must recognize that the consumer is now in charge. Anything done in the social media space must at least attempt to put the consumer in the driver's seat. Embracing the consumer taking control of your brand will take you a lot further than trying to fight it. A LOT FURTHER! Crowds sourcing, inviting customer reviews of your product and/or service, customer service discussions in an open forum, live chats with key executives in your company should all be considered in any effective engaging content strategy.

Building a Facebook or Twitter page for your business can literally take less than a minute. The real work starts by building up qualified  fan / follower base and the feeding that base with an engaging content strategy that can lead to a viral and infectious affinity for your brand.



  1. Patrick Pichette
    Patrick Pichette November 18, 2010

    Jon, great post on a very important topic. Too often do we see companies launch a Facebook page in order to simply join the party.
    No plan on paper, no budget, they go in blind. To your point, this can have a negative impact and actually hurt the brand. I think many companies are at a cross-roads, and are struggling with the decision to move forward.
    Ultimately, those who do take the plunge should be all-in, and a Facebook presence should be part of a fully integrated inbound marketing strategy.
    A Facebook page with 32 friends or a Twitter page with 12 followers creates a disservice and hurts the brand image. These companies are better off not having a social media presence at all.

  2. Glenn Edley
    Glenn Edley November 18, 2010

    I find myself talking about a lot and in my opinion The Joneses are not always right, so why keep up with them.
    A company could actually hurt their brand if they don’t have a good plan and put the time in.
    Very clear and easy to understand post Jon. Thanks.

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