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Build Engagement, Not Numbers

In pursuing my MA in Advertising and Public Relations at Marquette University, I am currently taking a class on Emerging Media (ADPR4300). This class is taught by Dennis Jenders, the Group Supervisor of Digital and Communication Strategy at Laughlin Constable in Milwaukee, WI. Dennis is concerned with giving us real time social media information and has approached this by asking some experts in the field to join our class as guest speakers.

Monday, we had the chance to introduce ourselves to social media expert Augie Ray, who entered our class via Skype. One of the themes of our conversation with Augie Ray was the affinity companies have for counting the number of followers, friends, likes, comments, etc. they are achieving on social media without actually counting the worthiness of what they are doing. Augie Ray argued that a smaller number of fans who care is better than millions who are uninterested. Which makes sense. Afterall, as he pointed out, the beauty of social media as a business tool is that it is interactive and allows the company to build a relationship with consumers. And relationships simply are not easy to measure.

There is a theory in communication studies, that states that most companies or groups work within a system or a set of constraints. Typically, this is discussed in terms of systems that already exist and the theory is used to understand the interconnectedness of these organizations and as a lens to attempt to make sense of an organization. With social media, however, communication scholars are given a unique opportunity to view the creation of these systems that are typically already in place when we study them. With social media being relatively new, especially as an important aspect of business, we are watching as we struggle to create a system for it to exist in. Everyone wants to know how this thing is suppose to work and what they have to do to work with it. That’s the purpose of having systems in the first place. What’s interesting is that the system that is being created, this one that hypes numbers rather than engagement, is a faulty system, built off a desire to quickly get in the game and to prove social media is worth it. It is a system built off trying to fit the circle of social media into the square of advertising, where numbers reached is a valuable measurement. The system that is being built says it’s important to consider ROI, where Augie Ray says ROI is a lousy measurement of social media and, furthermore, that ROI can be positive as brand is being hurt due to a lack of authenticity and engagement building.

So, how does one go about avoiding the faulty system that companies are trying to shove social media into and, instead, use social media effectively? Here’s some advice (courtesy of Dennis Jenders and Augie Ray):

  • Start your social media with a plan – objectives first, then strategy. What is your purpose of interacting with your customers? What is the image you want to promote? How do you want to educate your customers? Where do you want to direct your customers?
  • Remember that social media isn’t about numbers, it’s about engagement. Formulate engagement goals and a way of measuring them.
  • Benchmark where you are starting so you are able to keep track of what social media is doing (or not doing) for you the way you are using it.
  • Figure out what people are saying about you to start with and figure out how to get them where you want them.
  • Understand that each social media platform has it’s time and place. Twitter and Facebook do not have the same format, purpose, or capabilities and therefore, should not receive the same content from you.
  • Don’t approach social media as a campaign. Social media isn’t a one time thing, it is ongoing. Approach social media like kindergarten, where you meet friends and form relationships you will have for years to come.
  • Find out from the consumers what they want and listen to them.

Social media is still trying to figure out an effective, new, social media specific system for it to function within. Don’t simply follow the faulty system it is already setting for itself, but rather approach it systematically, like any other business venture, and allow social media to add a dimension to what your company is doing.

If you would like to follow along with more of the lessons we are learning from guest speakers, stay tuned! And follow our class as we live tweet using #ADPR4300.


One response »

  1. Wonderful post, and would love to hear more about some of the communications theories you are learning about.

    Essentially we are all trying to best use social media for our brands, and we often forget about the consumer. It should be what is important and relevant to them, within the brand’s core. As you said, we are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and need to realize our marketing should be about true engagement and not just selling product.


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