So ‘engagement’ is the word we keep hearing about alongside how we are promoting our blog or business online. This is all very well but what exactly do we mean by ‘engagement’? And is it just an ‘online’ thing?
The Act of Engaging or Being Engaged.
We are only ever truly engaged when we are present. Whether that be online or in real life. We could be sat in a room with someone we love, yet we are a million miles away. That’s about as much use to the other person as getting a like on Facebook when you think about it.
Truly being engaged is about being absorbed and involved. It’s about meaningful exchange. Business or personal. Whilst a ‘like’ is a nod to our approval, it doesn’t pay the bills.
We don’t suddenly change how we engage with others because we are online. If we are, we shouldn’t be. Online or offline our business is one and the same.
So What’s Happened Then?
It was probably only a matter of time before the whole follower number and audience building came home to roost. Accounts with over inflated follower numbers meant that we could only aspire for such followings with our business. The comparison game can be a tough one and it can make you feel that you are missing a trick somewhere. As though our business is not doing as well as others. Or that you are not on top of Social Media. There is also an element of following the crowd only to find that no one knows what they are queuing for.
That’s all well and good if you are a FTSE100 company. Your follower figures will be representative of that. But when it comes down to the small business owner and sole trader, we need to keep it real. We don’t expect a personal message from a large brand but we do expect a response from the local gardening company. Especially when they have several thousand followers and five star reviews for reliability and response time. We might just think your reviews are from your friends and family. It’s worth noting that some of the bigger players are doing brilliantly with audience engagement. And the audience love them for it.
Nothing Has Changed Really
The good thing is that as business owners, we aren’t restricted to our online activity. How we conduct our business both in person and online comes down to one and the same thing.
What lies at the heart of this, in my opinion, is that whilst the way we do our business is constantly changing, the fundamental principles remain. We buy from those that we know, like and trust.
Social Media figures can be manipulated. Quality, service and likeability cannot. Be the same person that you are when you show up in real life.
The good thing about this is that we could be spending hours and more hours on Social Media unnecessarily.
You will always see someone who is smashing it, be inspired by it, learn from them. It shows it works.
As a blogger, I see how much the Social Media algorithms change. Just when you think you are winning, it changes again. There will always be a programme in place to beat the algorithms. Rest assured, you will spend more time trying to do this than you will in picking up good business contacts. Unless you have a team working on your Social Media accounts. Sticking with your plan is key at times like this because it could well change back overnight. Remember you are an expert in your field online and offline.
That’s not to say that we aren’t going to make Social Media work for us but trying to compete on a manipulated playing field is a fools game.
Are There Winners?
It depends on how you determine winners.
You will get people following you and then automatically unfollowing you as your numbers go up and down before your eyes (literally!). It’s nothing you have said, posted or otherwise, it’s just the way it is. They may have ‘bots’ doing this for them. But we don’t all have to do the same. Nor should we be because there is no gain from follow for follow. Follow your target audience back and follow those that interest and inspire you. But don’t follow just because you have been followed. It feels polite and nice but this is your business account. You can do the nice fluffy stuff on your personal account.
And if you are on Social Media for long enough, you will see that this type of operating is quite transparent. Get involved by all means but platitudinous likes don’t bring business and returning customers. Reputation and consistency is the only winner here. Just know that it goes on.
Fortunately, smoke and mirrors will only get us so far when it comes to building relationships. If that’s how someone behaves online in business, chances are that is how they do business in real life.
At it’s best Social Media is brilliant, fun and informative. It’s a way of keeping up with what and who we want to. But in the same way that friendships only flourish by human interaction, our business is the same. I love that I can keep up with the latest online, it’s become a way of life in the modern world. It is a godsend for many who are able to use it to work from home and perhaps build a business in a way that was never possible. It opens doors to those who aren’t able to be flexible or who may need to be in the home to suit their family commitments. What’s not to like?
However, the sure fire way of really connecting with someone is always through human contact or conversation.
Whatever business you are in, rest assured that if someone is going to take an interest in working with you, they will probably do their homework first. Because they can. What it comes down to is being authentic with our choices. We know what we like and we like what we know.
Don’t Lose Sight of your Goals
Make sure Social Media is a reflection of you and your business in real life.
Make it work for you and your business. Don’t treat it as a numbers game. That can be really hard when you are building a business but it’s about interacting with your target market and building relationships. You want genuine relationships that go beyond likes on Social Media. It can be hard and it can be frustrating. But your target market doesn’t change online or on Social Media. Always bear that in mind.
It’s just the same as in real life exchanges. We don’t thrust our Business Card at people inappropriately or sit in a business meeting promoting ourselves and not ask anyone else about their business, do we?. Hope not anyway! So, we don’t want to constantly post on Social Media without engaging with our audience. It’s a two way street.
Equally, we can’t sit back and soak up the likes and interest in our business without reciprocating in some way.
To me that’s a natural next step of relationship building. Have you ever found yourself consistently engaging with the content or business of another, only to find they aren’t in the slightest bit interested in you?. It doesn’t mean that we are courting favour by showing interest, rather a natural curiosity BUT there is a finite amount of relationship development to be had from this one way street. On a very low level, we’d be better off listening to the radio.
Back to Engagement
So, with our work already cut out in staying present and consistently showing up on Social Media, we may as well make it enjoyable. Make our time count. All these things are entirely possible. And the greatest thing? The delicious engagement that comes as a result. Not always, we do have to work for it like everything else in our business – BUT remember we are looking at single figures here as small businesses.
It is those single figures, that one piece of engagement that can make all the difference. We all know how that one chance meeting or exchange in real life can trigger a stream of events – well, it’s the same with Social Media. We need to nurture every one of these single numbers because they are in the main, the real thing.
Engage with those that engage with you and engage with those that don’t. Those that interest and inspire you. Other businesses, your target market, individuals and whoever happens to come on to your radar and make you take notice. It’s a much more valuable and enjoyable use of time than trying to grow likes and followers over and above what you are already doing as part of your Social Media strategy.
I always work on the basis that if learn one thing or am inspired by an exchange, I am grateful. If a client emerges as a result, then it will be through a combination of factors. I can guarantee that it will be nothing to do with how many followers I have across the Social Media platforms. Mentions yes, engagement yes, content yes, shares yes, likeability yes. But not follower numbers. I am a small business not an ‘Influencer’, there is a very big difference.
And that makes life so much easier.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.