The business goals of social can vary somewhat from company to company but the underlying driver for social is to increase engagement with ones customers and prospects in order to increase awareness of the business, understanding of the offerings through the experiences of its customers, and create a relationship that can lead to sales. As buyers, we feel more comfortable giving our dollars to someone we know or something we understand.
Engagement offers companies an opportunity to connect with their buyers. This is why companies hold marketing events, sponsor seminars and participate in conference - in order to meet customers and prospects face-to-face and shake their hands. Through social media engagement, there is a new playing field available on the digital channel. While certainly not as meaningful in many ways as playing a round of golf with someone, social media offers a better opportunity to reach more buyers and prospects and start a dialogue with them.
Some companies choose to engage on existing social channels such as Facebook, LinkedIN and Twitter where there is a large number of people, thus increasing their odds of reaching more people. Others find value in creating their own communities where they can bring the buyers to them and have greater ability to inform, educate and engage. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options and they are not mutually exclusive as a company can run a successful online community for clients and use the public social channel to drive awareness and membership. In any event, however, a business driver for using social channels is to engage.
Here is how the Engagement Cycle works:
A client or prospect has a question, an issue or a problem. They reach out to a community of people in search of an answer. Through the interaction with either the company or with another client or prospect they get an problem solved or an answer to their question.
As humans, when we are assisted by another we naturally feel gratitude or appreciation. Typically we have a tendency to reciprocate a good deed. Often times, the feeling of gratitude plays out as need to help another person or share the information we just received. Therefore, we share the information (often in the form of a retweet on Twitter, or a discussion group post in response to a request for help) or seek an opportunity to help another person. We now feel connected to the person who helped us - and in many cases in a business context, it will be either someone from the company or a client of the company.
One the information flow begins, other people are assisted by the information they have seen online and they too experience connectedness. They also often make a contribution within the social channel about the issue and share the information they have or recount their experiences. This persistent information flow created a robust body of work about the product, service or company. When it is positive or informative it is to the company benefits, and when it is negative, the company suffers especially if they are not well represented in the information flow cycle. In other words, a company who is getting negative attention through the channel but does not respond is more likely to continue to experience negative information flow.
In any case, the engagement cycle is critical piece of the information flow. When a company becomes involved in the engagement cycle they can ensure accurate information is shared in a timely fashion. They can create nodes of connectedness with buyers, increase the impact of the relationship with the company and potentially heighten the likelihood of being considered when a buying decision is underway. It is important to remember the fundamental rule that people buy from people, not companies.
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