Why Your Social Media Strategy Should Be “Engagement”

By Scott Westerman

Scott WestermanWhen I speak about social media strategies to companies, three approaches contend:

1) Public Relations – Some companies are still mired in the 80s and believe that the only way to measure impact is how often your stuff gets into the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. These people are most likely to use social media as a dumping ground for traditional press releases. It’s a one-way medium: They talk (you notice I don’t say “you listen” because most social media practitioners are about dialogue)

2) Customer Service – This Q&A strategy defines your on-line personality as someone who responds to specific questions about your company and it’s products or services. There is usually no personality behind the bot-like entity that answers you and the relationship doesn’t go much beyond “Whadaya need?”

3) Engagement – Talk to your grandparents about the local merchants in the old days and you’ll quickly learn that the most successful had personal relationships with their customers. They got to know them on a human level, asked after the customers’ children, knew birthdays, and tailored their products and services to the ever evolving needs of the marketplace. We didn’t go to “the store”, we went to see Joe. It was one human being to another and most likely a friendship that extended beyond business hours.

How you approach social media depends on your business objectives, but in over three decades of customer service experience in broadcasting, cable television and now alumni relations, I’m a believer in engagement.

Francisco Rosales, writing on his SocialMouth blog targets “The 5 Worthy Intangibles of Engagement“.

1. Trust and Respect
2. Positive Word-Of-Mouth
3. Credibility
4. Customer Knowledge
5. Brand Message Clarity

None of these things can be bought. They are earned based on your behavior in the social sphere.

The quickest way to get blocked on Twitter is to write something like, “Hey, I discovered this great way to earn money without leaving home!” The spammers who engage in this type of Twitter pollution count on the .5% factor. If they send this garbage to enough people, a few unfortunates will click through anyway.

The company who occasionally tweets, “Having a potluck at the office today. What’s your favorite crock pot dish?”, or “We’ll be away from Twitter for the next hour for our monthly all-hands meeting!”, tells me that there is something going on beyond simply making money.

In every neighborhood, there is usually one person who rises above the others. They are the ones who might shovel the snow out of your driveway on a day when they know you are out of town. Their doctor and dentist recommendations are always the best. They are most likely to know why the cop car lights were flashing outside of the Hendersons on Thursday evening. And you feel close enough to give them your house key when you travel, or to call them at the last minute if your kid needs a ride home from school.

By the same token, they know who you are and genuinely care about your in their thoughts, words and deeds.

In business, you want to develop that same vibe. You won’t do it with a one way press release blasts or with automated answering machines that tell you which buttons to push.

It’s only whey you try to understand what makes your customer tick, to customize your approach to meet their specific needs and share a bit of your own humanity that you can truly begin to engage. The intangibles help build the relationship and lead to the most tangible of outcomes:


Scott Westerman has been a broadcaster, cable television executive and entrepreneur. In 2010 he joined the MSU Alumni Association as Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations & Executive Director. He is a 1978 graduate of Michigan State University. 

This blog post was originally featured on http://www.scottwesterman.com and has been used by the author’s permission.


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