Is social media engagement really about conversations?

There’s a lot of hum n’buzz online about whether social networks, in particular— Twitter, are effective as a means of engaging with your market.

Problem is everyone has a different idea of what ‘engagement’ really is.

For most engagement seems to mean one thing: conversation. And the success of these conversations is measured by the RT’s or @ replies that go on between two (or more) Tweeters. For me, however, engagement is less about conversations and more about connections. Measuring @ replies and RT’s alone doesn’t take into account the non-conversational link hits and subsequent business deals (or follow-ups) that happen away from the social platform—by spring-boarding someone directly to your blog or website. They also do not take into account follower numbers and the value that should be placed on a ‘fan base’— that is tweeters who may never converse with you, but like what you do and are loyal. These are your ‘future-customers’, the people who may not be in the market for your services right now, but will think of you first when the time comes that they, or a friend, needs—whatever it is you do. And they omit to consider the fact that people enjoy tweeting because it is a fast-paced forum of information sharing and networking. Twitter is about a quick reply or two and moving on. Heck… if people wanted a proper conversation they’d pick up a telephone. Now … let’s be honest, if you are using Twitter to promote your business spending all day simply chatting to people is going to be counterproductive. But connecting with people is going to be a valuable way of building your brand—and with brand-building comes the magic of brand-loyalty. So how do you measure engagement in terms of connections? Here are three ways:

  1. Number of RT’s and number of @’s do have significance because they can indicate your value as a tweeter of interest. But this value has nothing to do with ‘conversations’ as tweeters such as celebrities rarely respond to tweets from their followers yet still yield an amazing amount of RT’s and @’s.
  2. Link hits direct from Twitter can be analysed via a number of online tools including free-to-use Google Analytics.
  3. Number of followers can be a measure of successful connections. But are your followers loyal or do they unfollow after a period of time? There are many online apps you can use to track these changes.

So how do you make these Twitter connections for your business? 1. Start by following Tweeters who have similar interests. Don’t avoid people in the same industry because you think of them as competition. They are a valuable source of information and potential business leads.  And importantly they are also a great place to make new connections. Check out their follower lists for other people to connect with. Go on, don’t be shy, these lists are public for a reason. 2. When someone ‘genuine’ (as opposed to spammers) follows youdo follow back. It can be insulting when a business entity doesn’t follow back as it implies they think you are not good enough. Hardly a way to inspire brand-loyalty. Learn how to use lists and Twitter platforms such as Tweetdeck to manage large groups of followers. Tweet a hello when someone follows you or thank them for a RT. It’s a nice personal touch. Avoid auto DM welcomes or automated links to new followers. The general consensus is that they reek of insincerity. And I have to agree. 3. Tweet positively, professionally and share. Inject some of your personality into your tweets. It seems obvious but don’t be negative. Everything you tweet represents your brand so keep your personal-life rants for your personal account as they only ultimately serve to portray you as someone less than capable. Share your tips, experiences and the industry links you find interesting. Offer advice when it is requested and help others make connections. Building rapport with your followers is valuable.  A sense of trust develops. Brand-loyalty develops. Successful engagement with your market really depends a lot on your vibrancy−not as a Tweeter, but as a person. Social media isn’t called social by accident. Conversations are an important part of the engagement but the lasting connection is what will make you and your business stand out … and be memorable.

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