The True Meaning of Social Media Engagement

October 4, 2014

We know, it’s likely that you’d rather read about the true meaning of life, but that might be a little out of our realm, so let’s talk about engagement

It’s only natural that the New York Times is met with slightly more intense scrutiny on the heels of their innovation report going public. And it’s no surprise that some of that scrutiny is focused on social media practices.

Buzzfeed recently called The Times out for their Twitter graveyard—where some senior editors and writers have accounts set up but don’t use them. The Times has argued that just because certain members of their staff don’t interact on Twitter or respond to tweets doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. They are using them, it seems. But, as Matthew Ingram on Gigaom asks: are they engaging?

It’s a worthwhile question and it’s a good reminder to all publishers. As readers increasingly depend on social media for news, your social media strategy should focus on how to engage on relevant social networks, not on how many networks you are “on.” Let’s review the basic rules for social engagement:

  1. Know Your Resources. When we think about social engagement, it should always be in the context of available staff and financial resources—because over-extending ourselves just to be “on” a network is a recipe for failure.
  2. Know Your Audience. Where are your readers—current and potential? That’s where you want to meet them. Which leads to the next point:
  3. Be Selective. Choose social networks that already interest your readers and that serve your industry, areas of interest and presentation style best. Pinterest won’t be any good to you if you don’t appeal to a highly visual audience that includes women between the ages of 25 and 44.

Okay, but what about when we are on the platform?

  1. Make It About Your Audience. Posting, tweeting, liking, sharing . . . with the innumerable actions one can take on social media, the core driving force for those actions should be about informing, inspiring, encouraging, validating, supporting and teaching your audience. Yes, share your own content—because that’s a big part of what we're about, content—but focus the relationship on your readers.  Create dialogue to grow a community of interest around topics that are relevant to your industry to create brand loyalty, increase shares, and of course traffic and new readers.
  2. Be of Service. This is about customer service, but not always in the traditional sense. Of course it is of utmost importance that you respond to questions, concerns and complaints that are voiced on social media platforms.  It’s also about going the extra mile by listening to the needs of your audience and meeting them.  You might find this engagement beneficial to your content and product development strategies.
  3. Be Human. Some things never change. We humans crave authentic interactions. It’s easy, when we are interacting via the digital world, to not invest as much energy in those relationships—or to be less aware of how we come across, without the face-to-face experience to inform us. We’re not saying that you need to give everyone the level of attentiveness that you’d give your childhood dog, but we are saying that a little extra goes a long way. Show people who you are. It’s okay to admit mistakes, it’s good to crack jokes and it’s important to show your appreciation.

The point? Engagement is about showing up, not just being there.