Foreword – a sneak peek into my innerworkings
“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.
At this point I realize ‘new-age’ marketers especially the data analysts and digital marketing gurus) will say “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist or it doesn’t matter”. To this I say, to each their own. I look at engagement in a different way and I don’t measure it in the traditional manner.
Why “Engagement” matters
This foreword was needed as a gateway to the way my own mind works and you’re free to reject it. To each their own.
2 weeks ago I took part in large European digital marketing conference, in which I had the privilege to give both a full day workshop on community development as a supercharged marketing channel and a talk about start marketing (you can catch the highlights here).
One of the workshop participants cleverly summarized his own key take-aways from it on Linkedin and I was happy he did so, as it gave me both a confirmation that my message went through and an insight into what might require more clarification or fine tuning.
In response to his comment, I posted the following:
Thank you for the shoutout Pavel. I believe you captured the essence of things. Specifically for me (other than “why”) I think the “give some to get some” is most important. It’s all about creating added value to give in order to get (profit at the end of the day, we’re all running businesses after all). People often forget that and are either afraid to share (e.g startups so scared to expose what they do that they remain in stealth too long or even after their product is out focus on direct sales efforts rather than content marketing) or simply think they have nothing to share or cannot share (e.g companies in highly regulated industries such as fintech and medical that have to abide by strict privacy and security standards, or companies that are in more “boring” sectors such as traditional industries, machinery, construction). It is important to remember that no matter what you do or sell you always have a story to tell and added value to give.
So what is “give some to get some” when it comes to driving engagement in marketing?
To elaborate on my above comment, I believe that no matter what business you’re in, no matter what you do or how highly regulated your industry is, you have to be open, transparent and foster trust and authenticity, in order for your marketing messaging to truly have an impact.
The closest example to home is what I do. Throughout my career I have been writing, I have been giving workshops and talks (more often than not free of charge) and I have been mentoring and volunteering my time, knowledge and skills to benefit people who needed help with their marketing or with developing communities for their brand.
Did it ever damage me reputation or business wise? Not really. There have been more than a few cases where people seemed to “abuse” my openness and kindness and after listening to me and even picking my brain for hours went on to start their own “competing” businesses. That’s ok as there’s plenty of room and need and to me it actually feels good to be able to influence other marketers. Did I lose clients or miss out on opportunities because of it? Not that I am aware of.
Did I gain new clients from this? Sure did! Many times people who heard me speak or who enjoyed my free mentoring via one of the many acceleration programs I work with have come back for more and became paying clients. They have also recommended me and my team to their colleagues and friends.
I share my knowledge because it’s not a secret. The same way I learned it anyone can. I DO have advantages that are unique to me and they are the multi-disciplinary background of myself and my team, the experience we have accumulated and of course our unique individual personalities. All these are expressed in how to we take that knowledge, which I enjoy to share freely, and apply it in the real world.
What about your intellectual property?
Obviously, not every brand – be it a personal brand of a single person, or a corporate – can do what I described above. If your products or services rely heavily on intellectual property, I don’t expect you to share all your knowledge free of charge. But even if your business is one that has to protect its patented secrets, you can still find a way to create added value for your communities.
Often, the secret lies with realizing that your communities are not only your paying clients. If the paying clients have to remain oblivious to the trade secrets, there is bound to be at least one other community that you can engage by providing them with added value, so that they, in turn, can drive awareness of your brand and reach your paying clients from another direction.
In other words, you may want to consider engaging and investing in creating value for what most marketers would call “a non-relevant audience”.
Again it would be best to fall on example now and the best one I can give is companies in the life science/medical/healthcare realm.
Bound by regulation on privacy and data protection and leaning heavily on patents and intellectual property, these brands often struggle with their communication. Their paying client is in most cases, not the actual patient (benefiter) or even clinician (user), but the administrators, HMOs, insurance or government organizations. And so it is that these companies focus a lot on sales and sale funnels (in direct calls) and less on marketing in general. When asked “why don’t you speak to patients or doctors” most will answer “why should we waste resources (time and money) on audiences that are not our target”?
The answer I have for them is usually:
- because these audiences are the ones who need to know about your solution and love it enough to use it. They will be the ones demanding it from the ground up, driving awareness to your product and resulting in the paying client purchasing it
- because these are audiences you can actually engage and interest and it is easy to create added value for them to become engaged, thus facilitating easier access to your paying client through them.
Bottom line – give some to get some
As I said in my comment on Linkedin, we all run a business at the end of the day and profitability is our goal. There’s no shame in that. Do achieve that goal you can either be a champion at direct sales, or a champion at marketing that drives sales. The latter is the more cost-effective option, because whereas marketing requires substantial budgets (there’s no escaping that), you can significantly ramp up sales if you get your marketing right. 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. Hence the title of this post: “Engagement isn’t bought, it’s driven by reciprocity”.
If you’ve read this far, I hope this post has made some sense to you. I am always happy to chat and share more insights, if you’re interested ?