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83 ways to improve engagement – and 17 things to skip

Building engagement is always a question of working at the intersection of what “they” want – and what you might need.  Focusing on only one is a sure-fire way to either minimize your ROI, or minimize their interest.  

This white paper describes an approach –  Audience Lifecycle Modeling – that can be used to map out an engagement strategy.  It also suggests six criteria for deciding whether an investment in any particular engagement strategy is worthwhile.   While the focus is on digital engagement, the concepts are just as applicable in the real world.

Building Engagement: Step one

Before considering what should be done to improve engagement it makes sense to stop all of those activities that do the opposite.   Beyond the time that needs to be spent undoing the damage of the inappropriate, spending time on these negative activities saps budget and resources that can be spent on just about anything else. 

Here are 17 things that you should never do:

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 leads 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 using one social media tool or another.  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 very few know how to use.  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.  This may change as contactless payments and other trends take hold, but rarely is there a first mover advantage when there are so many new innovations in this space.

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 are 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 that gets amplified greatly.  (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, all digital channels must be managed strategically.  Automation can quickly take engagement in the wrong direction.

15) Non-strategic engagement:  Digital 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 digital 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 our Three Tiers of Digital Marketing, which describes a continuum from Passive, to Broadcast, toEngagement. 

Where Do They Care?

This simple sentence encapsulates three critical factors:

1) Too often, our focus is on the We, and not the They.  To increase engagement, we need to engage on topics that the target audiences actually care about.

2) If we only focus on the They, then the organization’s goals will never be met.  Clearly the intersection of We and They is the target.

3) The Where is actually just as important.  If the attempts at engagement occur in venues devoid of the target audience, then why bother?  Fish where the fish are.

Audience Lifecycle Modeling

One way to drive engagement is to trace the lifecycle of a target audience as it discovers, lives with, and eventually exits your organization.  For a professional services firm, this might mean from initial discovery of your organization, to the billable engagement, to the billing.  For an Association, it might mean member recruitment, certification, and exit.  For an individual in the context of their career, it might mean graduation, employment, then retirement. 

Because the target audience deeply cares about where they are on their journey, engaging on these dimensions is far more likely to result in engagement than not.  Audience Lifecycle Modeling adds the dimension of When to Where to They Care.

Here is a list of just such moments… 83 three of them:

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  • Brad Christmas

    Brad Christmas

    CIO Akin Gump

    Their methodologies have depth and are effective. We get exceptional value for every dollar spent.

  • David Berman

    David Berman

    High-level advisor on accessible design United Nations

    We're pretty deep into it, but in an hour and half I learned six or seven things that I just didn't know before.

  • Stephen Libman

    Stephen Libman

    Transformational thinker

    I learned 7 or 8 killer ideas that I need to put into action right away.

  • Brad Christmas

    Brad Christmas

    CIO Akin Gump

    Their methodologies have depth and are effective. We get exceptional value for every dollar spent.

  • David Berman

    David Berman

    High-level advisor on accessible design United Nations

    We're pretty deep into it, but in an hour and half I learned six or seven things that I just didn't know before.

  • Stephen Libman

    Stephen Libman

    Transformational thinker

    I learned 7 or 8 killer ideas that I need to put into action right away.

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