engagement fuzzy
"Engagement" is a fuzzy concept to most brands.

“Engagement” is a buzzword that’s applied to nearly everything in social media these days, but buzzwords don’t pay the bills. Tie the concept of engagement to driving sales, however, and now we’re talking social commerce.

According to the Catapult and Forrester Study on social technology’s impact on shopping:

Social networking was found to fail to have any meaningful influence on purchase decisions, although it was still viewed as helpful by shoppers…

If the above is true, then why are so many brands investing in social? Marketers tell me it’s to “drive engagement” with their brand. Sounds nice, but when I ask how they plan to turn this engagement into sales, they tell me sales is the responsibility of the retailers, not the brand. If not to drive sales, I ask, “what are the goals of your social media efforts?”  Their answers nearly always amount to engagement for the sake of engagement—a sorry excuse for a strategy devoid of measurable results or goals.

But what if you could take the same type of user generated content you find on Facebook and Twitter, and drop it directly in the consumer’s purchase path?  Now we’ve defined engagement in a way that justifies your company’s investment in social. Here’s why.

We know that consumers seek the recommendations of other consumers to influence purchases, and we know that consumers report that advice received on social networking sites do influence purchases.

The disconnect is that marketers are often fixated on social sites like Facebook and Twitter exclusively as content distribution engines, rather than as tools to drive the sales process. The same Forrester study highlights the missing link for most brand marketers:

…consumers visit retail and brand sites for very different reasons and that if the two worked in partnership it could improve results for both. Because the retailer draws large numbers of shoppers to research and find the best prices, the brand can add value to the site by providing content to help drive traffic and loyalty.

The most impactful content a brand can add is consumer opinions and answers to shopper questions at the point of purchase.  This vital content appears in the form of reviews and answers on ecommerce sites. Several of our clients have actively engaged—there’s that word again!— their end-customers for content, and distributed it for display throughout their retailer distribution network. These same clients have also actively answered shopper questions at the point of purchase. A few results showing impact of social engagement on sales:

When tied to increased sales, the term “engagement” loses its fuzziness and genuinely becomes part of a winning social strategy. By focusing on sales, brands make their engagement measurable.  The right placement of compelling content throughout the buying experience can make all the difference, through the retailer distribution network, social networks, and multi-channel marketing efforts, such as coupons.

What kind of impact do you think a social strategy designed to drive sales would have for your brand? Take a step back from the tools for a moment and think about how the content you’re collecting might be used to make that happen. How is your social strategy “making the sale”?

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