It’s the secret to making a brand message stick. It’s the connection that helps build a brand’s online community. It’s the measurable, renewable, multipliable fuel that drives social amplification.
But for all the talk about ‘engagement’, the reality is that most brands are terrible at actually generating any.
According to Forrester, brands achieve less than a 0.1% engagement rate on six out of seven social networks.
So, advises Forrester, there's only one logical solution to this problem: get on Instagram quick.
That should solve everything, right? Wrong.
The Instagram app doesn’t currently allow sharing, or ‘regramming’. That means the vast majority of the engagement being generated is a fleeting 'like' on a single image, with no amplification of the message. The idea that this has any meaningful value is dubious at best.
What really matters is sharing, retweeting, revining, repinning and reblogging — interactions that expand the audience reach by a brand’s content.
Instead of dumping your currently unshared content into the unshareable world of Instagram, why not start looking for ways to make what you’re doing now more engaging — and kick your competitors’ asses in the process?
First thing to accept is that, on social media at least, the barrier for brands is high. Except for brands we’re already interacting with in the real world on a daily basis (looking at you, @Starbucks), we humans are not generally interested in what brands are doing or saying on an hourly basis. So even if you did get us to like you or follow you all those months ago, we’ve pretty much tuned you out by now.
Fact is, we humans come to social media for the same reasons we come to any media: to be informed and entertained. When we see commercials — or slick new forms of contextually-relevant product enticements — our default setting is ‘skip’.
To be truly engaging, your brand actually has to live with consumers in the ecosystem — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Vine or Tumblr — and be aware of what they’re talking about in real-time. That means your brand has to work nights and weekends, too. Because that’s when most of the fun happens.
If you’re not being social on social media — if you’re not participating in or adding to the conversation that’s happening right now — your content is still just advertising.
Having a committee approve your posts and tweets and scheduling them 30 days in advance is not going to grab people’s attention when #HugYourCatDay is trending.
“Comedy is inherently viral”, says comedian Chris Bliss. “People can’t wait to pass along that great new joke… it can have a real-world impact at changing a conversation.”
Think about it: if your content strategy is based on ‘authenticity’ and your engagement level is less than 0.1%, either consumers don’t think much of your brand’s authentic self, or you’re doing it wrong.
Maybe it’s time to stop trying to compete with other brands on social media. Take a lesson from the celebrities, comedians and ordinary people who are actually generating the kind of off-the-charts engagement that could really make a difference for your brand.
Find a way to let real humans post and tweet for you in real time. If you do it transparently and with the right people, you could have a lot of fun and not get into too much trouble.
Quite simply: do something fun and real, in real-time. Or just keep testing the content that’s getting you less than a 0.1% engagement rate. And maybe tweak it slightly.