Digital Marketing

Social Media Marketing – The Next Generation of Business Engagement

Social Media and Customer Engagement

For a lot of organizations—including business, nonprofits, and governmental agencies—use of social media very often begins in Marketing, public communications, or a similar office or department with a direct connection to customers and stakeholders. This makes sense given that a typical driver for getting involved with social media is a slew of negative comments, a need for “virility,” or a boost to overall awareness in the marketplace and especially in the minds and hearts of those customers increasingly out of reach of interruptive media. In a word, many organizations are looking for “engagement,” and they see social media as the way to get it.

Social Business: The Logical Extension

Social business follows right on the heels of the wave of interest and activity around social media and its direct application to marketing: Social business is the logical extension of The Social Feedback Cycle social technology throughout and across the business. Social business takes social concepts—sharing, rating, reviewing, connecting, and collaborating—to all parts of the business.

From Customer Service to product design to the promotions team, social behaviors and the development of internal knowledge communities that connect people and their ideas can give rise to smoother and more efficient business processes. Social business— viewed in this way—becomes more about change management than marketing. That’s a big thought.

Social Business Is Holistic

When you combine identity, ease of publishing, and the penchant to publish and to use shared information in purchase-related decision-making processes, the larger role of the Social Feedback Cycle and the practice of social business emerges: Larger than the loop that connects sales with marketing—one of the areas considered as part of traditional Customer Relationship Management (CRM)—the Social Feedback Cycle literally wraps the entire business.

The Connected Customer

The upshot is that the customer is now in a primary role as an innovator, as a source of forward-pointing information around taste and preference, and as such is potentially the basis for competitive advantage. I say “potentially” because customers having opinions or ideas and actually getting useful information from them and then using it are two different things. Here again, social business and the related technologies step in: Where social media marketing very often stops at the listening stage, perhaps also responding to directly raised issues in the process, social business takes two added steps.

The Social Web and Engagement

This next section provides a conceptual starting point in understanding how the critical activities of engagement and response are enabled through the adoption of social technology and supporting processes. Beware: It’s a different viewpoint than that which applies to “engagement” in traditional media. Engagement is redefined by consumers when acting in an open, participative social environment. This is a very different context than the “read-only” setting in which traditional media defines “engagement,” so take the time here to understand the four stages of engagement.


The first of the foundational blocks in the process of building strong customer engagement is consumption. Consumption, as used in the context of social media, means downloading, reading, watching, or listening to digital content. Consumption is the basic starting point for nearly any online activity, and especially so for social activities. It’s essentially impossible (or at least unwise) to share, for example, without consuming first: habitually retweeting without first reading and determining applicability to your audience, for example, will generally turn out badly.

The Engagement Process and Social Business

Taken together, the combined acts of consumption, cu ration, creation, and collaboration carry participants in the conversations around your business from readers to talkers to co-creators. Two fundamentally important considerations that are directly applicable to your business or organization come out of this.

The Operations and Marketing Connection

So far this chapter has covered two primary topics: The importance of understanding the mechanics of the Social Web and the Social Feedback Cycle, and the collaborative inflection-point within the larger social engagement process. Engagement has been redefined for social business as a more active (participative) notion compared with the decidedly more passive definition of engagement—reading an ad or mechanically interacting with a microsite—typically applied in traditional media, where terms like “Engagement Ad” literally means “an ad you can click on to see more promo copy.” That’s not what participants on the Social Web think of as “engaging,” as the Social Web is a distinctly participation-centric place.

Last thought

There is a distinct social “engagement” process: Beginning with content consumption, it continues through cu ration, creation, and collaboration. The final stage—collaboration—can be used to form an active link between you, your colleagues, and your customers.

Operations and Marketing teams must work together to create the experiences that drive conversations. The Social Feedback Cycle is the articulation of the relationship that connects all of the disciplines within your organization around the customer experience.

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