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Engagement on the Social Web

“Engagement” takes on a new meaning on the Social Web—or at least one that is different from what is typically implied in a marketing context. This is because “engagement” on the Social Web—like all other aspects of “social anything”— is defined by participants rather than the creators of a marketing message or software application. In this context, the term “participant” means a customer or stakeholder; the term “engagement” is less about exposure and click-throughs, and instead more about participation in activities that might be described as “I’d actually spend all day doing this if I could.” Getting engagement right is a key to getting social technologies working for you.

Engagement as a Customer Activity

The Social Web creates an expectation from the customer’s perspective—whether a prior, current, or potential (future) customer—of a two-way relationship with brands, products, and services that was nearly unthinkable just a generation of business ago. Customers now have a real voice that—in advertising lingo—resonates with others who share their lot: Just as soon as your awareness campaign has done its job, they’ll use their new collaborative tools to vet your claims and promises

It’s Still Your Business

How often do you hear someone say, “When it comes to the Social Web, if your customers tell you to jump, your only response should be along the lines of ‘how high’”? Or perhaps you’ve been told, “You need to be 100 percent transparent.” While these make great rallying points—and from 30,000 feet they are correct—they aren’t all that useful when it comes to the task of actually applying social technology to your business or organization.


n respect to the customer’s participation, you’ve got to do something or you risk alienating (to put it nicely) your audience. In a case like this, the only viable response— which by default makes it the best response—is to clearly explain why this particular request can’t be entertained and to offer instead an alternative if one is available.

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