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Engagement and community both seem to be the ultimate goals for those involved in the Social Media game. Yet building it seems shrouded in mystery; ask many successful community managers, and it is a combination of secret sauce, luck, and a strategy that has been built after-the-fact to explain their success. Building engagement and community boils down to two factors: volume, and content; do better on these, and a community will develop.

Volume: Building engagement and community is all about building critical mass. In other words, volume is required. This can come from three sources:

  1. Increase the number of new users who walk through your social media door. This can be through Pay-per-Click ads, inbound web links, or traditional marketing activities.
  2. Increase the number of posts from people who already are part of your community. This can be achieved by replying, linking, and sharing existing conversations.
  3. Increase the number of posts that you (or others) write.

Improved content: Users don’t engage directly with your organization (or you): they engage only through your content. The better your content, the more engaging “you” will appear to be. Here are some ideas:

  1. Use audience-relevant headlines that spark interest.
  2. Use graphics: a picture is worth 1000 words, and not everyone prefers to read.
  3. Use video: sometimes a picture just doesn’t cut it.
  4. Embed a call-to-action.
  5. Ask the reader what they think, using open-ended questions: a one-way monologue will never build engagement.

Of course, there are many more ways to increase volume or improve content.  In the spirit of the last point, what have you tried? And has it worked?

This week’s action plan: What is the one thing that would improve engagement in your social media venues: more volume, or improved content? This week, take one step to make this happen.

Marketing Insight: Building engagement and community is not the end goal of a social media program: it is just a way-station on a journey to increased sales, improved service, or reduced costs.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Is Engagement at the center of your social media strategy? Likely yes.  But is it possible that you are working at cross-purposes, spending time and resources on negative activities that actually result in disengagement?  If so, you’re not alone.

Use this post as a checklist: how many of these seventeen negative activities do you recognize?  Or perhaps have done yourself?

1) Too much: For every marketing activity, there is a point of diminishing marginal returns: one additional erg of effort may not provide a corresponding benefit.  At the limit, too much interaction will overwhelm the target audience, and have the opposite impact.

2) Too little:  Similarly, a very low level of activity may not register on an audience’s radar. Achieving a critical momentum is important; gauge this through the number of shares, comments, likes, follows… and transactions

3) Too salesy:  While there is a role for sales messages, this is often a turn-off when the audience is not ready for a message about purchasing.   Delivering the wrong message at the wrong time kills engagement.

4) Too contrived:  Most people can smell a fake conversation a mile away.  The worst: vendors asking leading questions about their own products and services.

5) Too stupid:  Sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut, than opening it and proving your ignorance.  Getting smart people on your team, using an editorial calendar, and proofing a post before putting it online are “smart” things to do.

6) Without permission:  Nothing annoys an audience more than an expectation gap.  An example: your Twitter feed promises topic X once each day, yet you send topic Y five times every day.  Or if they are bombarded with commercial offers to an email address harvested from their Social Media profile.

7) No Social URL:  It has become almost standard to use social icons (the Facebook F, the Twitter bird, etc) in real-world venues, as a clue to an organization’s Social Media community of interest.  But without the actual URL, how are people to know where to go?

8) The intern problem:  This issue is a relative of the Too Little problem. An organization hires a summer intern, who is tasked with building a community within Facebook or Twitter.  They may be successful, but what happens when the intern goes back to school? The community flounders, and the organization appears unresponsive.

9) Silly QR codes:  These are the small squares that appear almost everywhere, but almost no one uses.  Ever.  What is most surprising is seeing QR codes in places where a user can not possibly access the underlying web page: subways, remote geographies, etc.

10) No Social Media policy: While you may want those in our organization to help amplify your message through social channels, what happens when your name is used within a user’s profile, and that profile contains inappropriate content?  Building a Social Media policy and guidelines, and then training your staff on it can solve problems before they start.

11) Facebook Social Graph:  This is the search function that is available within Facebook.  Used creatively, it can open your organization up to significant embarrassment.  Consider a search such as “People who work at Coke who like Pepsi”.  While it is impossible to protect your organization against every eventuality, developing some basic tests makes sense.  Good engagement is desirable; bad engagement isn’t.

12) Ignoring opinions:  While you may know that books are rated on Amazon, and hotels are rated on TripAdvisor, you may not be aware that ratings sites exist for every single type of organization or function:  Teachers, Portfolio managers, Accountants, even Funeral Directors.  You have four choices with these sites: ignore, monitor, respond, or build your own venue for comments.  (Hint: ignore is not a good option.)

13) Active User Disengagement:  Even more than email, Social Media is a permission-based activity.  Slamming users into Facebook groups (which generates email notifications) will agitate them at best – and drive negative opinion on Social Media.  (It may also be contrary to certain jurisdiction’s Anti-spam laws.)

14) Automatic posts:  While there certainly is a role for automatic posts, when the organization is in a time of crisis, Social Media must be managed strategically.  Automation can quickly take engagement in the wrong direction.

15) Non-strategic engagement:  Social Media engagement must be part of an overall plan.  Engagement initiatives that develop conversation for conversation’s sake – or on inappropriate topics – are counter-productive.

16) Stop shouting:  Engagement doesn’t mean a series of broadcast pronouncements, or warmed-over advertorials.  It means conversation and the development of a community of interest that benefits all parties.

17) Stop experimenting (mostly):  Many Social Media challenges have already been solved, so rather than spending time and resources solving them anew, use models to short cut the process.  One model is Three Tiers of Social Media, which describes a social media continuum from Passive, to Broadcast, to Engagement.

This week’s action plan:  While this post identifies 17 different disengagement activities, there are literally 100’s of ways to do it wrong.  This week, stop doing two of them: one from the list, and one that isn’t on it.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


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