Yesterday, I presented on engagement in social media to a standing room only audience at the 2011 American Marketing Association conference in San Francisco.
The presentation was part of a special session on Social Media Marketing I put together. Other presentations included one by Connie Porter (Notre Dame) who discussed creating engagement in virtual communities and showed examples from Allrecipes.com. A presentation by Mary Wolfenbarger Celsi (CalState – Long Beach) looked at people on Facebook and how they create personal brands online and how this motivates them toward engagement in social media. The final presentation came from Mark Rosenbaum (Northern Illinois University) and took a very different look at engagement online by proposing technological solutions for quick serve restaurants that eliminate front line employees — thus replacing engagement with technology to speed up the process and eliminate cost.
My presentation used interviews, my experiences running my blogs, and content from other blogs to uncover elements important for creating engagement in social media. The major findings were aspects of the gift economy, decommodification, and control management.
The Gift Economy in Social Media
This finding stresses the notion that engagement is build on a foundation of value provided to the consumer. Value can either reflect financial exchange, such as free or reduced cost items, or emotional exchange, where firms provide social value to consumers.
Decommodification in Social Media
Decommodification is a technical term used in marketing to reflect interactions between firms and consumers that are NOT part of making money from consumers. So, we’re talking about creating value unrelated to buying and selling.
In creating engagement in social media, we’re really talking about interactions that don’t look like selling. So, instead of talking about my brand and trying to convince you to buy my products, decommodification means I talk about things “friends” would normally talk about, like what’s going on in our lives. And, I should be interested in YOU as an individual, so I want to know what’s going on in your life — even if it’s not related to my brand.
Loosing Control in Social Media
Finally, engagement in social media requires I relinquish control. And, it really doesn’t matter whether I accept that I’ve lost control, it’s the reality that I have.
I don’t control my brand — consumers do. Sure, I make the product and determine key elements such as features and benefits and the cost, but consumers transform what I say and create their own reality of what my brand is — either individually or collectively.
Engagement in social media gets squelched pretty effectively if I try to force control. The trick is to monitor and influence brand image rather than control it if I want to create engagement.
Next Steps in Engagement in Social Media
I’m finishing up a paper I’ll submit to a marketing journal and I appreciate comments to this post that might improve that paper.
So, please let me know what you think!