Recently I co-wrote a chapter in WOMMA’s upcoming book on measuring word of mouth and social media. In the process of writing this, it became obvious to both me, as well as, the book’s editors that there was no clear definition for what social engagement is.
This was especially troubling given the fact that both brands and agencies everywhere had become intensely involved in either the discussion of social engagement’s benefits, as well as, attempting to implement programs that drove social engagement.
This is the image that comes to mind when I contemplate that interesting fact.
We cannot doubt that social engagement is the one of the most important things to happen to brands since advertising. Given the fact that Google Analytics has deployed social engagement metrics reporting functions, it seems as if the social engagement is the new Six Sigma; everybody wants it and everybody wants to measure its ‘ROI’. Today, it is all the rage.
Whenever we have a new shiny thing, this tends to happen in large part because we don’t think about how to apply it, only that it needs to be applied. A tactical approach to a strategic problem.
Everybody wants to get in the Social Engagement line. Why? Because it is what everyone else is doing. Maybe being in the social line is the right thing but you still need to define why it is the right thing before you hop in line.
So let’s try to define what social engagement is or is not. When working on the chapter, the closest definition we could find for this concept came from Brian Solis, a well-respected authority on CRM. In a November, 2011 post, Brian makes the point that the deeper you drill into an organization’s structure and ability to execute and support ongoing engagement; which requires coordinated interaction between business teams and departments, the less you find until you are faced with the fact that for many, truly supporting social engagement is a ‘meaningless platitude’.
Since we are early in the growth of social, I am more willing to give businesses a mulligan here. Change and evolution do not occur overnight. Heck, Groupon that little start-up that began on a laptop in a coffee shop in suburban Chicago a short time ago has today grown to be a massive organization with thousands upon thousands of employees in a myriad of organized departments churning out miles of bureaucratic red tape. I imagine that for them, adapting to social engagement might not all that different than say Fed-Ex.
However, if at the heart of your organization, dot-com or otherwise, customer engagement (not social) is in your DNA and is part of how you measure your performance, social engagement isn’t a big leap. Ask some of the standard bearers for customer service like Southwest, Zappos and Intuit. Today, I’d even add SAP, EA and Verizon to that list of rapidly evolving to incorporate social engagement into their corporate culture.
So back to defining Social Engagement. What is it…exactly? In the book, we define it as ‘the direct integration of a brand’s internal business functions with external customers and stakeholders. Strategic business imperatives are linked to business actions such as R&D, quality, customer retention management, marketing and sales initiatives. These business actions are pushed outward from the organization to allow individuals with an interest in the brand or the initiative, but often no direct affiliation, to directly participate in the planning, development and deployment of programs which then have a direct and measurable impact on the brand experience.’
Let that soak in for a second. If that is social engagement, and there are a number of smarter people than me who think this defines it pretty well, then if you are in line for social engagement are you sure you are in the right line? Do you really want to commit to that?
Think of it like this. Imagine that the line you are in is full of excited people. You hop in assuming it is for something good. Well for some in the line it is but they know what they are in line for and you don’t. Say you discover that you are in line to join The Marines. Ok, that is a pretty life altering commitment. Is that want you want or were you hoping for a new cell phone?
Being able to define something and understand its impact on you determines how you act or respond. You might be interested in joining the Marines but need to get into shape before you sign up and hit boot camp. You want it, recognize the impact and commitment but make a choice to prepare before engaging. Get it?
In the end, social engagement requires a solid and sober organizational understanding of what it includes and requires, as well as, a collective commitment to execute it. If you are not ready for that, hop out of the line and go get yourself a double caramel macchiato latte and come back later.
Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions – so says Mark Twain. The folks at Zynga couldn’t agree more. The company’s mission is to “give the world permission to play”. Known for bringing us Farmville and Words with Friends, the newly minted public company was recently featured on NBC’s Rock Center. Zynga’s CEO and founder, Matt Pincus, explained the social aspects of play and pointed out that “games are meant to be played by people.” And, are they ever. According to the NBC report, about 150 million people play Zynga games every month. Interestingly, their main demographics could surprise you — they are adults, mainly moms, and a few notorious celebs, like Alec Baldwin.
There is a science behind all of this fun. Pincus’ goal is to make play a daily habit, so he gamified his offerings to foster a virtual addiction to them. Zynga studies users’ activities, behaviors and motivations to understand what works and what doesn’t, what keeps them coming back time and again. Then, they bake their learnings back into the experience. They are also pretty smart when it comes to rewarding participants, especially top performers. Arguably, they set a standard for Reputation Management. At the end of the day, they know how to be relevant.
Becoming a daily habit is the Holy Grail for community strategists. Applying game mechanics that encourage, learn from and reward member activities and behaviors can benefit many communities, even those in the more conservative, regulated financial service and health care industries. As we learned in this year’s study of online branded communities, many brands in these two industries fail to take even basic steps like confer status, elevate leadership and recognize the skill or expertise of their members.
HealthTap is a notable exception. They illustrate how gamification can be applied in the health care industry in a relevant way. Venture Beat reports that, “HealthTap ‘gamifies’ the process of answering questions, giving the physicians reputation points for their answers. On top of that, physicians can simply tap a button on a mobile phone if they agree with an answer that another doctor gave. Doctors who earn a lot of “agree” buttons can grow their standing among peers.”
Gaming brings people together. It gives them a reason to come back. And it confers status for ‘playing our game’ — whatever that ‘game’ happens to be. If you think it’s not a powerful motivator, here’s a real world analog. Admittedly I am not a virtual farmer, neighbor or mayor. But I do enjoy a heated Euchre battle with my Midwest friends or better yet, the annual game of Michigan Rummy with my family at our lake house. Core to the Michigan Rummy tradition is our own gamification that goes back fifty years or more. On the inside of an old poker chip box is the famous Family Leaderboard. Young or old, every Michigan Rummy winner gets to write his or her name on the inside of that box. A few summers ago, it was a proud moment for my Uncle Kevin when he got to add his name to the long list for the first time after 27 years! He is now immortalized as Michigan Rummy elite. I understand how he feels. The allure of adding my own name to that list means the world to me as well, and draws me back to play year after year.
I’m one of those people who needs to have the latest and greatest right away. So, when Facebook introduced Timeline, its much-anticipated massive overhaul to user profiles (think curated digital scrapbook), I upgraded immediately. I didn’t bother reading what it was all about or how it worked. I simply had to have it.
Then the holidays came and my Facebook life was put on the backburner as I spent quality time with friends, family and Hollywood’s latest blockbusters (if you haven’t seen Hugo, by the way, you are missing out on a true masterpiece). I completely overlooked the seven-day review period where I was supposed to work through my Timeline to get things ready before going public Little did I know that after the review period, there’s no turning back.
As is the case with any major upgrade, the new Timeline requires patience and commitment. Since I don’t have a lot of time these days, my initial instinct was to look for the “go to static view” button. But, I couldn’t find it. Certainly, Facebook wouldn’t require us to live with this change, right? Wrong.
(Really? Really? Do you really need to rush us into such a dramatic change?).
So, I turned to Google and found pages upon pages of strategies for turning back time. Apparently, I wasn’t alone.
According to InsideFacebook, scammers are exploiting the negative sentiments surrounding Timeline by prompting the disenfranchised to Like, download or watch videos to deactivate, remove or disable it. I was one of those suckers.
I’ve now come to accept that resistance, my friends, is futile. While only a fraction of Facebook users have already adopted Timeline and it’s still an option, pretty soon it won’t be. According to the Associated Press, “There’s no sense in holding out. Timeline will eventually go live for everyone on Facebook, whether or not the user has taken the time to prune and optimize the Timeline view. It’s best to be proactive and make sure what people will see is what should be seen.”
So, I’m in the process of curating my new look to the world and preparing myself for my Facebook makeover. And, I admit, the more time I spend with it, the more I like it. I just needed time.
It will be interesting to see how marketers will embrace Timeline when it becomes available. To date, there has been no official release date for brands, but Mashable offers an interesting glimpse of what we might expect. How about you, have you revealed your new face to the world?
When people ask about my holidays, I tell few people the truth. If they know me well, then they followed my time between Thanksgiving and the New Year on Facebook or through good old fashioned face-to-face communication and email.
It all started the day after Thanksgiving when I received one of those dreaded pre-dawn calls that could only be bad news. My sister, Barb, had been in a horrible automobile crash on Thanksgiving and had just gone through 12 hours of surgery to save her life. That news spread from the hospital to my niece to me to my mom and various siblings, our most inner circle. As updates came in, we used an old-school round-robin of calls to update each other and commiserate about prognosis, which was extremely critical. As always, my mom became news central.
Eventually, we each started posting on Facebook, imploring our friends and extended family to pray for my sister. We considered setting up a CarePage which centralizes updates and statuses of ill or injured people, but ultimately decided that our close friends and family were already on Facebook and it was easier to just post there. We didn’t have to set up a new page, and we could quickly post updates. And, Facebook spread the news virally in a way that we never could have achieved with just phones, email and CarePages.
We are a very close family, so it’s natural that we share many connections among our individual “friends lists.” One thing that was really interesting and touching were all of the people who took the time to post on each individual’s wall even though all of us were seeing each other’s feeds. The number of times that people shared and re-shared the news was incredible. My sister was remembered in many prayer circles or sent healing energy. Word also spread via other channels and soon we were hearing from multiple circles of our networks.
One week after the accident, my husband and I took my elderly parents from Chicago to Denver to visit my sister in ICU and give my niece some relief from her hospital vigil. At the time, Barb was still on a ventilator, had about 30 tubes and inputs in and out of her body and was hooked up to multiple monitors, and was still critical.
After a brief visit with her the first day, we went back to our hotel and made arrangements to meet the next morning and head back to the hospital to speak with her 10 specialists. But before the morning came, my dad peacefully passed away in his sleep (you can’t make this stuff up!). So in between paramedics, police and coroners, we started the process all over again of notifying our most inner circle of this traumatizing event.
Then, we once again posted on Facebook. Because our networks were already closely following for updates about Barb, the news of dad’s death spread rapidly across multiple network nodes.
As I think back on my family’s journey, we used a combination of new age social tools and archaic drum beats to communicate with and support each other through a difficult time. Social tools are a logical and inevitable addition to the vehicles we’ve used for millenniums to share news, gather the tribe and bring people together to honor and bury their dead. Today, we have online death notices and guest books, online tribute pages for making charitable contributions (in lieu of flowers) and social networking tools to share news, arrangements and memories. Videos, photo albums and wonderful stories are all shared easily and extensively.
The core of great online experiences is their path to better offline or real-world interactions. The great hope and promise is that what people learn online will increase the quality and the level of how we engage with family, friends and peers in the physical world. Ultimately, social tools should be humanizing instead of fostering isolation as some believe.
That was certainly our experience. The online drum beat led to old-school actions that really mattered to us. Online postings led to offers to pick up relatives from the airport, make food or help with my sister in Denver while we made arrangements for my dad in Chicago. Others reminded us that they lived very close to Mom and would be happy to run errands for her…weekly! Others offered to do various chores to give us time to grieve. Some people made a donation (online of course) in honor of Dad, and others took the time to send a handwritten note via snail mail, which is truly one of the best ways to be supported. We are in fact still getting sympathy cards from people I haven’t seen or heard from in years; they saw the news on the Facebook Pages of friends or friends of friends and reached out in personal and touching ways. And some people just stopped by to give us a hug.
As we heal, we take solace in the incredible power of both the online and offline communities that supported us. We know that Dad died the death of a saint with no pain. He was a fun, independent and productive man to the end who taught us great values and a love of life. And, all those prayer circles that included Barb must have worked. She got home from the hospital the week after Christmas. She still has a long healing process ahead, but should recover fully—helped of course by our tribe!