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Friday, August 3, 2012

In Social Media, What is Engagement?

For me, this is a big question.  I have my own opinion of course, but let's look at this issue.

I see many articles and blog discussions on this topic.  Many center on engagement being about how many "Likes" are attributed to a brand page or a specific post on a brand page.  Similarly people also look at how many shares a post has, to judge whether or not there is engagement.

I look at engagement differently however.  Let's go old school for a moment while I dust off the old 'New Collins Dictionary" and look up engage. There are 11 different definitions, some related to marriage, but here is the one relevant to this discussion: "to involve (a person or his attention) intensely."  If I look at engagement, the definition relevant to this discussion is: "a promise, obligation, or other condition that binds."

When we look at these definitions then, it becomes more apparent that engagement in  is much more than a "Like" or a "share".  A like does not involve two or more people being intensely involved in anything.  A "Like" doesn't involve an obligation or a promise to do anything.  I can say that I "like" Land Rovers, but I have no connection to the brand or any individual behind the brand.  I am  simply stating, here in this blog post, that I "like" Land Rovers.  Even if I visited their Facebook page once in my entire life and liked the page, what does that mean?  I may never return to the page and more importantly I may never buy a Land Rover.  My preference in "dream car" might change as well.  It has before.  So, while "Likes" are nice, it does not, in my opinion, mean engagement.

The other side of that equation is how does a brand respond/engage with someone who likes them?  Do they say "thank you for liking us?"  Probably not.  So, again there is no real engagement.

For me, engagement really comes down to people interacting with one another.  It is about a relationship.  It is about a conversation or multiple conversations.  Hmmm...what does this sound like?  It sounds like the goal and objective behind social media. In the words of Erik Qualman, it is about relationships and not technology.  The technology is just making it easier for us to connect as people.  Engagement is all about someone responding to a post and either asking or question or starting a discussion. Sharing a post comes a little closer to engagement. It is assumed that the person sharing was interested enough in the post to share with his or her friends/followers.  

I stress that engagement is about the relationship and wanting people that you care about to read something that could be relevant/helpful to them.  It is about them conversing with you about your brand, your product or even the friendship that you have developed.  Engagement is a relationship.  

Do you agree or disagree with my definition on engagement? 

For more reading on social media, check out The Ostrich Effect.  

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