The misunderstanding of “engagement marketing”

Since the advent of social media, there’s a lot of talk about engagement marketing. I like the term “engagement marketing”, as it describes the interaction with customers on an adult to adult level as well as the realisation that the customer is part of the brand. But – besides the fact that marketing was always about customer centricity – remember the move from the 4Ps (Promotion, Place, Price, Product) to the 4Cs (Communication, Convenience, Cost, Customer Solution) – a lot of companies misunderstand the meaning of engagement marketing.

Many companies are currently going into social media with the aim to engage with the customer. So they broadcast their content, follow seemingly randomly and strike conversations. That’s not what was meant with engagement marketing, I’d call this annoyance marketing. It just isn’t customer centric.

Engagement marketing starts with the customer and his desire to engage with the brand. So the engagement starts when the customer seeks the engagement and the engagement stops when the customer has had enough or had his/her problem solved.

The difference that social media has brought (besides the fact that you can now directly deal with customers of different cultures, which presents another completely new set of complexity) is that a brand can engage even when they haven’t been directly approached but when they are talked about.

For example, when I send a tweet about my unhappiness  with the service of let’s say BT, Audi or my letting agent, or if I engage in a conversation about it, the brand in question can pick it up and get in touch with me. Now the social media savy ones, such as BT, do that.

Social Media therefore enables proactive customer service and that is the real benefit for a brand.  In a way the moaning tweet is nothing else as a silent cry for help and with the expectation that somebody comes to me instead of me having to go to a website where I most likely only find some FAQ and an email form, instead I can share it with thousands instead of just the automated system (are you listening, Amazon?)

Now this proactive customer service can also go a step further. For example, I hear somebody talking about an issue (could be a problem but also a wish – just something that requires a solution) my brand can solve – for example, I am talking about the quality of coffee at my workplace and a coffee shop nearby picks it up and send me an invite to taste their coffee. As a result a conversation can turn into a commercial arrangement between brand and individual. Be aware though, this is a slow burn and has to be done with a lot of care.

The main point to remember: the engagement level is defined by the individual (customer), not by the brand. If not, it can be a bit like somebody stepping into your private sphere and being to in your face and not realising how it annoys you, or like the drunk guy who goes on and on about the same thing, not realising that you are bored and want to move on. Think and behave like a normal human being, not like a brand, a desperate sales person, or a stalker. Don’t hog the conversation, let the customer define it. And with all the flack BT gets, I have to say, they hold the right distance.