Do you get social-media engagement wrong? | Contributor

By Patti Rowlson
Courtesy to The Bellingham Business Journal

So your small business is “doing” social media, but not seeing results. It could be because you’re actually doing it wrong.

The reality is that if you are only generating outbound messages and not interacting with others, you are missing important opportunities. It would be like sitting in a room with your brand advocates, but you’re doing all the talking and ignoring everything they are saying.

The good news is that there is a way to improve your results by learning about the benefit of engaging with others. As you read this article, keep in mind that social media is supposed to be social. It is not about posting marketing-related messages on your Facebook page and waiting to see if anyone responds.

What is social-media engagement?

Social-media engagement is defined as communicating with an audience using tools like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Those who use social-media engagement as a marketing tool are able to build a meaningful community, turn customers (and business peers) into brand advocates and even help other local companies succeed.

Businesses that succeed with social-media marketing have found a way to use engagement to give consumers what they want.

With that in mind, we know that consumers:

1. Want to do business with those they know, like and trust. Engaging with others can help build meaningful relationships; when people like a business, they are far more willing to become an advocate (and share info with their friends and family).

2. Respond positively when they feel like they are heard. Word spreads quickly online when people have positive experiences with a brand. Word can also spread quickly when people feel ignored. Engagement gives companies an opportunity to listen and provide solutions as well as tune in to important conversations taking place online.

3. Appreciate special discounts and rewards. More and more businesses are using social media to find and reward those who advocate for their business (watch for this trend in 2014).

Engagement: It’s the difference between robotic and interactive

We’ve all seen a social-media page that appears to be made by marketing robots. They crank out post after post about their own products and services without responding, interacting or supporting others. Nothing social or engaging happens.

Consumers soon understand that the business is only using social media to try and sell them stuff. These businesses are doing social media wrong.

On the other hand, there are social-media pages that are obviously interactive and alive.

We see consumers replying and liking status updates, asking questions or leaving feedback and the business responding to interactions. We also see the business interacting with other local business pages to help build an online community. This is an example of doing social media right.

Two simple tips on getting started with engagement

It may seem obvious, but the first tip is to review your pages and respond in a positive, friendly manner to any comments, replies or feedback already on the page. Then from this point forward, make sure you respond to each interaction in a timely manner (within 24 hours).

Try to personalize messages by using first names in the response, like “Thank you, Pam, for helping spread the word about our local business, we appreciate the support,” or “We always love hearing new ideas from customers, thank you for the suggestion, Don.”

Another tip is to be a positive presence in the local online community.

Start by connecting your business with local companies (make sure you are logged into your business page when connecting, not your personal profile). Look for opportunities to like, comment, share or retweet relevant information they are posting. You will stand out and they will definitely be more likely connect with your business and return the favor.

The main takeaway from this article is to understand that if people are not interacting with your social-media pages you can change that by being proactive and encouraging to others.

Log on to your business page today, and start engaging with your online community!

Patti Rowlson is a marketing consultant and social media manager at PR Consulting, Inc. She helps Whatcom County small businesses identify, implement and consistently maintain marketing-related programs. Learn more about small-business marketing by connecting with PR Consulting on social media sites or by visiting  

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