The first time I really thought about engagement online was when I started making jewellery. I joined craft groups on Facebook where members had 100s or 1000s of likers on their pages, who took part in like4like posts every day. This was a boring, tedious task that took me away from crafting and didn’t seem to help me much.
I saw other crafters moaning that they had lots of likes but no one was reading their posts or buying from them. I knew I’d liked a lot of pages that I’d never buy from, or even look at again, so it was very likely that people had done the same. It was nothing but a waste of time.
Nowadays if you look on these craft groups people are asking for comments in exchange for comments, and even specifying how long they should be. So it’s more like engagament4engagement.
But, what is engagement?
‘… engagement can take a wide variety of different forms, from simple exposure to actions involving brand-generated messages, to liking, sharing and commenting on brand-owned Facebook pages and recommending these pages to friends.’ (Dahl, 2015:154)
Before social media, companies had to tailor advertisements to assumptions they made about consumers. Surveys and reviews were the only way to receive feedback and get to know their customers.
We now have advertisements tailored to what we’ve looked at online previously, what we’ve bought, and what our friends like. They draw on our emotions. I guess that’s why not all adverts look like adverts anymore.
How does emotional engagement work?
This is quite hard to explain. A person sees an interesting post on Facebook and likes it because, well they like it. They may comment on the post if it really interests them. But this doesn’t mean they will buy the brands products.
In Stephan Dahl’s (2015) Social Media Marketing: Theories and Applications, he follows the theory that emotional engagement needs something else to push it into actual behaviour. The brand or product also needs to fit in with the ‘subjective norm’.
‘The social norms are perceived behavioural norms based on environmental and social factors. These factors are largely extrinsic, for example peers, friends, spouse or family.’ (Dahl, 2015:157)
Simply, humans are creatures of habit.
‘While emotional engagement is widely recognised as a precursor to behavioural intention and eventual behaviour, it is not a direct measure of actual behaviour […] many people hold positive attitudes towards environmentally friendly products – yet substantially fewer people buy them.’ (Dahl, 2015:161)
But I think that emotional engagement is still the most important first step. Say this person is your friend on Facebook, are you more likely to follow the brand if you see that they like it? Would you have even seen the brand if they hadn’t commented on the page? Even if you don’t buy the brands products either, by liking the page you may have set off a chain reaction. Someone down the line will probably buy the product.
I’ve drawn a diagram of my understanding in hope that you understand what I’m talking about.
Engagement isn’t about just connecting; it’s about connecting with consumers who share the brands values and ideals. It’s worth noting that these consumers may not all become customers, but they will be able to connect you to other consumers who will become customers.
Think of half of your Facebook page likers as potential customers, and the other half as free advertising. This is why you have to stay connected with your customers as well as your consumers.
Dahl, Stephan (2015) Social Media Marketing: Theories and Applications (Chapter 8: Engagement)