Engagement in social media can be valuable to a brand. If it’s done right.

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Day 30 - Falling dominoes

Day 30 - Falling dominoes (Photo credit: evil_mel)

I really don’t care how many people follow your brand on Twitter, or Like your brand on Facebook. Numbers like these are essentially meaningless - building the right kind of relationships with 500 targeted people will always be more beneficial to you then meaningless, un-targeted relationships with 500,000.

The same is often said about ‘engagement’ - what value is there in engaging people on social media? This is a valid question to ask, but it is not the same as just attracting more Likes or Follows. Done well, engagement is valuable to a brand.

There are two main challenges to the value of engaging people in social media as brand:

  1. Surely sharing photos and chatting to people online has no connection to sales
  2. If it does have a connection, is it just a correlation (people feel positive about our brand so they both join us in social media and spend more money with us) and not a causation (people join us in social media and therefore feel more positive about our brand and spend more money with us)

What’s the value of ‘just chatting’?

The first challenge is a valid one - you can spend forever as a brand mindlessly chatting away to people without it having any impact on what you do. Are the people you are talking to even valuable to you, and are your engagements helping at all with them to spend more money, to recommend you to more people or to do some other action that will be beneficial.

The truth is that nothing should be done in social media with a clear understanding of why you are doing it - what you want to achieve and why this will help your business - and a clear understanding of who you want to target. These can be difficult questions to answer, but if you are not completely clear on them then you just won’t get the same benefits from engaging people in social.

Imagine a luxury fashion brand. It is probably very easy to get lots of people to ‘Like’ you page on Facebook or to follow you on Pinterest, but are these people actually the ones you want to engage? Or are they just aspirants, or people who like looking at the beautiful pictures? If you haven’t clearly identified who you want to engage (who will be valuable to you) and are managing your activities to attract these, then you may just end up chatting away to people who could have little value for the brand.

Know what you want to achieve, know your audience and make sure you are working hard to attract the right people.

Is it a causation or a correlation?

The bigger challenge to the value of social media engagement is that it does not lead to greater value for a brand, but that people engage more and spend more because they already feel positive about the brand. In short - that this is an example of correlated events and not causation.

A great piece of work by Bain & Company last year addresses this. Their Social Media Consumer Survey looked at average annual spend of customers who have a meaningful engagement with a brand in social against those who do not. Overall, those with a meaningful relationship spend 30% more annually.

If we were confusing causation and correlation we would expect that it would be those who are already positive about the brand who are spending more; those who are less positive about the brand would not. But the research doesn’t show this - those who’s spending is increased the most are the ‘fence sitters’ (those ambivalent to the brand); even the brand’s ‘detractors’ spend 20% more annually if they engage in social.

Bain Social Media Consumer Survey, 2011

So what does this mean for engagement in social?

So having good engagement in social media can be valuable to a brand - it’s not another meaningless number like Followers or Likes. Meaningful engagement, with the right people can lead to greater value for the brand from those customers.

But getting good engagement is not easy - it involves having a clear view on why you are using social, on the audience you want to engage, and on how you turn them from being passive to having an active relationship with you in social media. Most brands could get better at this and a focus on quality engagement, with the right people, will always pay greater dividends than just hunting down a few more Twitter followers or Facebook Likes.

Formula One team social media rankings

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Formula 1 leaders social mediaI am a big fan of Formula 1 - I love the drama, the competition, the nerdy technology - it’s quite a bit like social media!

As Formula 1 travels the globe, there are plenty of opportunities for social media channels to show fans some of what goes on behind the scenes. Of course, it also presents plenty of scope for promotion of those crucial sponsors. Commercial activity can range from branded pages and contests to a driver-branded version of  Angry Birds (yes, really).

With the British Grand Prix just around the corner, I thought it would be interesting to assess the performance of the Formula 1 team’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, and see who is ahead of the pack.

Formula 1 teams on Twitter

We put the primary, team Twitter accounts from each team into PeerIndex to create the following ranking:

Ferrari are out front, and Caterham are close behind despite their weaker results on track.

Ferrari’s Twitter feed makes for interesting reading, as each Tweet goes out three times - in Italian, English and Spanish. That’s commitment to the fanbase and provides a really good example of taking the international audience into account when using social media.

The Facebook Formula 1 ranking

When it comes to Facebook, we are less interested in total fans and likes than we are in engagement. In order to score the teams equally, we have created a rough ranking that takes their “people talking about” metric divided by the total fans.

Ranking F1 team Facebook pagesWhile they are getting lapped on Twitter, Mercedes AMG are dominating with their Facebook page - posting a variety of content and at a regular rate that doesn’t lead to overloading their fans.

Marussia once again punch far above their on-track weight, however with the smallest page on the grid, their engagement levels perform well with relatively low numbers of people talking about them.

It should be noted that Ferrari’s impressive number of fans is due to being the page for the iconic brand itself, as there is no F1 specific page.

The most surprising result is last-place McLaren - they have one of the largest pages but are failing to engage their fans, and just before the home Grand Prix. From examining their page, it appears that updates are few and far between (in one case, no posts between 8-20 June) which goes to show the importance of nurturing your audience if you want them to interact on Facebook.

Image credit: nic r on Flickr

How to write an engaging Facebook update

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If you’ve got a Facebook account, chances are you will have seen the different ways in which brands approach updating their statuses. It’s worth putting some effort into making sure that you are creating engaging content for your Facebook fans. By ensuring that they are engaging with your content, you can develop and nurture an on-going relationship with them

The way in which you write an engaging Facebook status update will obviously vary depending on your audience, but here are a three tips which could be applied to many Facebook communities.

1. Make it short

A common mistake on a brand page is to treat status updates like blog posts. However, long copy on Facebook often doesn’t work in the newsfeed and simply doesn’t get read. Many updates I see could be cut in half with a bit of clever editing – so think about the key message you are trying to communicate and delete the fluff.

2. Make it personal

We may be working in digital marketing, but it’s worth remembering that most people haven’t ‘liked’ your page because they want you to sell stuff to them. To make your updates relevant to your fans, ensure that they show you are interested in them as individuals. Ask your fans about their opinions and their experiences – and show that you are interested in what they have to say.

3. Make it easy

If you give your Facebook fans an obvious call to action, they are much more likely to engage with your content. With so many other people and brands competing for attention in the newsfeed, you need to make sure that your update is one that stands out as simple to read and respond to.

A great way to do this is to write statements which invite your fans to fill in the blanks – for example:

“My favourite flavour of ice cream is ______”.

It only takes a few seconds for someone to read this short sentence and react. You may not be directly selling them your ice cream, but you will have made your fan stop and think about eating your ice cream for a moment.

Facebook engagement case study: Heineken vs Carlsberg

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Last year both Heineken and Carlsberg declared their intention to increase their marketing spend and so we thought it would be interesting to use analytics tool socialbakers to look at how both brands have fared in terms of their Facebook engagement strategy for the last quarter of this year (for the period 1st September - 13th December 2011).

1. Fans

At face value Heineken is leading the way in terms of fans with 4,740,759 fans, while Carlsberg only has 231,641 fans, giving Heineken 4,509,117 more fans than Carlsberg.


In fact, in just over three months Heineken’s fans grew by a massive 2,098,504 with a steady, average fan growth of 20,178 fans per day.

2. Engagement

As anyone who has read our blog before knows, we’re all about real engagement on Facebook rather than the number of fans and so it’s interesting to look at both Carlsberg and Heineken in terms of engagement levels.

Using Facebook’s “Talking About” metric, during the last 3 months significantly more people were “Talking about” Heineken over Carlsberg. In fact, the number of people talking about Carlsberg daily has been consistently low at an average of only around 2,500 people per day.

As the chart below shows, the peak on 25th November and then subsequent decline in the number of people talking about Heineken was probably due to people interacting with Heineken’s Thanksgiving post, as well as the fact that Incubus, an American rock band, had to cancel their performance at the the Heineken music hall in Amsterdam on this day.

As for Carlsberg’s low people talking about rate, this could attributed to a lack of posts from the page admin. The Carlsberg page admin has only posted content 42 times in just over three months. But while Heineken has posted double this amount, the amount of content used by both brands is lower than that of Coca-Cola and Pepsi’s Facebook engagement strategyand Heineken only really posted multiple times per day on 13th November in response to customer enquires about tickets for a performance at Heineken Green Spheres in Dublin (though this is a good example of using social media for customer service).

However, what is interesting to note is that when you look at both Heineken and Carlsberg’s Facebook pages in relation to their average engagement rate over time in the last three months it seems as if Carlsberg, at the start of the quater, had a higher average engagement rate than Heineken.

As you can see, there is a massive dip in the engagement rate on Carlsberg’s page around 7th October which they never quite recover from. This coincides with the day that Carlsberg announced it was rolling out the next stage of its marketing campaign for the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament on Facebook and so it could be that people started engaging with Carlsberg Football Facebook page to the detriment of engagement levels on the main Carlsberg page itself.

However, with Heineken’s average engagement rate decreasing and Carlsberg’s levels potentially looking as though it could increase again over time, it will be interesting to track both brands in terms of their Facebook engagement strategy over the coming months.

Putting the customer first: the 6 rules of online engagement

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By now we all know that social media can help put our customers at the heart of our business.

With this in mind, Lauren Carlson from Software Advice recently pinned down Brian Solis to discuss his definition of engagement.

Solis responded with what he calls the six rules of engagement: value, efficiency, trust, consistency, relevance and control. Let’s take a look at this to see how they can be applied as part of your engagement strategy:

1. Value

Consumers want to feel valued by the companies they do business with. Feeling valued translates to knowing that the company or brand will go above and beyond to meet your needs.

How to achieve this: Use social media to help you stay in touch with your customers in a personal way. In the “old days” this would be making a phone call, and there’s nothing worng with doing that today too, but you should also try to respond directly to tweets and other comments on social channels. You could also set up a loyalty program to reward return business, or offer discounts through social media channels to your most loyal customers to help them feel valued.

2. Efficiency

With the rise of new technology, particularly mobile, processes that used to be long and laborious are now happening much more quickly. Because of this, customers expect the same level of expediency when dealing with businesses.

How to achieve this: Consider how efficient your site is for mobile access and mobile purchasing. Also, instead of using call centers to deal with customer queries and concerns, think about using Twitter, Facebook or a live chat module for real-time support.

3.Trust

Consumers need to be confident in the credibility of your business and the product, actions and services that you deliver. With the rise of social media customers are trusting brand messages less and are turning to the advice of friends, peers and “people like them” to make their decesions.

How to achieve this: It’s been said time and again but be honest and transparent in all communications, across whatever channel. If a company builds trust through honesty and transparency, their customers will feel more confident to recommend the company or brand to others through social media. Don’t bombard your audience with your own brand messages and agenda; listen to what people are saying about you and join in the conversation in a natural, organic way to gain their trust.

4. Consistency

It is common for companies to offer multiple channels for communication with their customers. Offering multiple channels is a good thing, however there is no value unless the service you provide is consistent across each one.

How to achieve this: Don’t offer something you can’t deliver on. It is more valuable to have three consistent channels as opposed to six fickle ones that do not really engage with your customers. There is no point having a Facebook page or a Twitter profile just to have what you believe is a presence on there, if your customers are posting and commenting and getting no response or interaction.

5. Relevance

Many companies use social media as another means of advertising. They essentially spam social media profiles, blogs and marketing emails with product-centric information. However, that’s not what the consumer wants - engagement needs to be relevant.

How to achieve this: When potential and existing customers visit your blog, Twitter, Facebook page etc, they want to find information that is interesting and focused on their needs. Use social media monitoring to listen to what your customers are saying and identify your influencers or people who form part of your target audience. Engage with these people on their terms and only interact with them if you have a relevant message, or something of value, to offer them.

6. Control

We have heard over and over again that the customer is in control. But the idea of control is two-fold. It is clear that customers want a sense of control in that they want to choose the channel they communicate on, and they want the ability to opt in and out of specific engagements. In other words, they want an experience that gives them the sense of control.

How to achieve this: This is an interesting analysis of the word control. It puts the onus back on the businesses to still control the customer experience as a whole; it’s just that now, with the rise of social media, the customer can choose where and when they want to interact with a brand, if at all.  What Solis seems to be suggesting is that businesses should gain consumer insight and design an experience that provides the user the choice to interact with you or not (so ‘control’ in that sense of the word). Look at your key customer touchpoints to see where social media can add real value to your business.