Lately I’ve noticed an increase in search trends for both “engagement strategy” and “community marketing strategy”. First thought is “ YAY! People are finally starting to realize that community is important and that it can be a marketing channel”. But then I noticed another thing, people search but do not seem to find the answers they really look for, or think they look for.
Why is that?
Well, there are several possible explanations to this, starting with: there’s not enough content out there or not enough trustworthy content about community as a marketing channel – and ending with: people simply still don’t understand the intricacies of community marketing.
I believe the answer is somewhere in between. It is so difficult to explain the importance and huge potential of “engagement” and “community” in a world ruled by arbitrary KPIs that don’t really measure up to anything. How can you bridge between the data-driven, KPI oriented approach which wants to quantify, measure, analyze and visualize everything, and the subtle human behavior (complete with behavioral analysis, emotions and drama) approach, which tries to gauge what the people who matter, the clients, the partners, the investors, really want, how they feel and how it will make them react.
It is not easy. In fact, this may be the hardest thing for us, as marketers to explain. If we cannot show something “tangible” how can we explain the community marketing strategy to our bosses? To our clients? It’s not as simple as saying “trust us! We’re people persons!”, I mean…wouldn’t we all wish it was that easy?
I’ve written before about what engagement strategy is and how I measure it with subjective KPIs, which I call High Quality Engagement (HQE) Index. I also wrote about the state of mind that is required to shift your marketing strategy from a passive audience to an engaged community.
Rather than repeat myself I decided to TL;DR my previous articles for you, so you don’t have to work too hard 😊
What is Engagement Strategy?
Engagement strategy is not a service based perspective. It looks at the whole business model from a very different angle, the one of communities.
Engagement strategy begins with identifying the communities of a business, learning their language, the places they “hang in” (online and offline!), their actual needs from the client’s business or brand, and from there stimulate the business growth process.
In effect, breaking down this concept will eventually produce a list or a mix of services. Services such as: content writing, social media management, community management, PR, inbound marketing, campaigns, influencer marketing and much more.
We use the power of communities and what the industry calls HX (Human Experience) to create and promote brands, to help businesses grow.
Read more about Engagement Strategy.
What’s Engagement strategy got to do with Community development & Community Management?
When you start understanding that you are not marketing to a passive audience (top-down or “broadcast” approach) but to a community, and even multiple communities (bottom-up or “discourse” approach) you realize that, well, you have to develop and manage communities.
Community management is, by definition, a people-focused approach. This may seem like a non-issue but it is. Many people get caught up in building vague, virtual marketing personas and audiences they can measure and forget the real humans they are working for.
My fundamental view is that everything we do is aimed at people. Therefore, nothing in the life cycle of a product, a venture, or a service is detached from the understanding of why it is there and who it is for.
These two questions: Why and Who (in that order!) are the most important ones any entrepreneur should ask themselves. These are the very first questions you need to answer the minute you come up with an idea for a new venture or business. We daily witness great successes, start-ups that make millions or billions of dollars, from various ideas (which we don’t always understand or even see the need for, but people like them).
Community Management, in the narrow meaning of the term, refers to online customer service basically. It is the difference between just posting online and not engaging, to sticking around and actually answer and provide service to your “community”. When you think about it like this, as important as it may sound, you may think it is enough to employ community management strategies after you already have a product, a website, your social media and all other channels. You may think it is a part of your overall marketing strategy.
What I believe in, and this is based on my experience of years of working with Start-ups and technology incubators, is that Community Management is so much more than just online customer service, and that it is not just a part of your marketing strategy. In fact it should be your marketing strategy. All of it.
Read more about community management as a marketing strategy.
How do you apply Engagement strategy or community marketing strategy?
The Engagement Strategy model / process is quite simple:
- Find your HQE Index – the HQE index is different from business to business, depending on various parameters. We start by defining the HQE index that is right for your company.
- Find your communities – define your ideal and optimal communities, where they are, who they are and what each of them looks like.
- Build your Engagement Scheme – Try to pinpoint all the touch points with each of the communities and where they also meet each other (not just your brand).
- Create your voice and tell your story – storytelling that matches the communities and HQE index means creating a unique voice and finding a broad common ground, bringing all of your communities together so they can not only support your brand, but also support each other.
- Choose the right tools, platforms and channels for your communities and stories.
- Decide on a timeline for your strategy, breaking the HQE index into milestones and goals.
- Measure your growth.
Read more about the how to get started with Engagement Strategy.
Ok, but still, Engagement as a KPI is not really straightforward, is it?
“Engagement” is a tricky KPI. On most social media analytics and insights it is measured as an integration of likes, comments, shares etc. All perfectly good and measurable parameters, but do they indeed embody what “engagement” is?
I think not. When most humans think of the word “engagement” and “being engaged” they think of a state of mind and a state of being in which they are immersed, interested, connected with something or with someone else. It could be another person, a hobby, music, a view. It could be a combination of all of the above (think about being in a beautiful scenic spot with your best friend or your partner, just sharing the sensation, the experience together).
This state of being is not something you can measure easily, if at all. You either feel it, or you don’t. I believe that online engagement, human connection, immersion and interest in and with others is the same.
With profitability in mind (it’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?) speaking to multiple communities and especially creating real value for those communities, even if they’re not your directly paying clients, can optimize your marketing messaging and save you a lot of resources in the long run, while ramping up your sales even more.
The more value you create and “give away” the more you will be trusted and known and the more you will be able to sell your products and services.
More value = more engagement (the fully immersed human kind that’s hard to measure but that pays off better). This type of engagement isn’t what you get when you pay to run ad campaigns on social media and search engines. It isn’t measured by likes and shares as I mentioned above.
Read more about how Engagement isn’t bought, it’s driven by reciprocity.