SXSW Sneak Peek – Social Media Engagement: It’s Time To Evolve

February 24, 2013
Posted by: Matthew Hammer, VP- Marketing

Does This Sound Familiar?

If you’re a social media marketer, you probably spend a lot of time trying to create engaging content and might suspect you’re wasting time and money and you could be doing better.
You write Facebook status updates asking people to “like” one thing or “comment” on another. You post photos of puppies, kittens, and babies with your products to generate shares; you pitch ideas to make a video “go viral.”
If you’re really lucky, you create a clever tweet at a timely moment during an event like the Super Bowl and everyone congratulates you for being really engaging in social media.
And yet, it all feels a little vague, doesn’t it? Like you’re engaging to get engagement, but don’t really know what the engagement is worth?  Are you really learning anything about your customers from this type of engagement?
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see where the current engagement model is leading us in the next year: Marketers will continue to try and game the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm and Twitter trending topics with more and more clever, inane, and meaningless posts aimed at capturing customer attention and more followers..
Social marketing will turn into an interruptive experience like television commercials, and history shows us that consumers will soon tune these messages out because they are devoid of depth and context in our lives.
Go ahead. “Like” this if you liked this paragraph, or comment below if you didn’t. Is that what our marketing communications are becoming?

Evolution = Adaptation

Darwin notes that the key to surviving and thriving is the ability to adapt. While many brands and marketers are still struggling to catch up and adapt to the new world of social marketing, the eco-system is changing.
What worked a year ago won’t work a year from now, and by the time your marketing team really understands how to effectively use social media for marketing and customer support, the landscape will have changed again.
If you want to get ahead of the curve instead spending time catching up or keeping pace, the time to adapt is now.  It’s time to go where we’re heading, not linger where we’ve been.

From Engagement to Storytelling 

The point of social marketing is to connect with your customers and listen to the stories that they tell. Customers will gladly share their tales of how your product plays a role in their lives and will engage in a dialogue with you — if you take the time to listen and really respond to what they are saying.
A call-and-response type of engagement asking for likes, comments, and RTs is not “engagement” or an actual dialogue with your customers. If what you asked yesterday has no relation to what you asked today, and doesn’t influence what you will ask tomorrow, that’s a monologue, not a dialogue.  You’re not really engaging with your audience, you’re just trying to entertain them.

What Is a Storytelling Model? 

Real people tell stories of their personal experience with your products to their friends and family and amplify those in social channels.  These stories are already happening in thousands of Facebook comments, Reddit posts, tweets, pins, and YouTube videos.
While your social marketing team is asking your customers what’s their favorite color M& M or to “like” the picture of a cute kitten, your customers are telling their real experience with your products elsewhere. Sure, they come to your Facebook page or Twitter account to complain, but where are their stories among the hundred pieces of content you create and post each month?

  • How do your customers use your product over the course of a month? A season? A year?
  • Are your customers using your products in ways you’re not thinking about?
  • What value does your product or brand give in the lives of your customers on a daily basis or on special occasions?

It doesn’t matter what your product is; if people are buying it, they have a story to tell about it, and you have a story to tell about how your product can create a good experience in your customers’ lives.
That’s what a storytelling model is — shifting from a series of unrelated messages to putting messages and experiences within a context that helps tell a story.  Preferably, telling your customers’ stories, although you as a brand are certainly a character in the story too.

How Do We Get There?

Over the next month, we will lay out a methodology on how to shift your marketing from engagement to storytelling, Our purpose today is to get you to start thinking about whether what you’re doing today in social marketing is really serving your marketing needs or not — and to invite you to participate in a discussion about it.
What do you think? Is your marketing team engaging just for engagement, or are you telling and participating in your customers’ stories?


Those attending the SXSW 2013 session “Storytelling: The Next Wave of Engagement” will have a chance to dive into a 2 ½ hour workshop that will dive into a new kind of social story telling. For everyone else, we’ll share in a series of three blog posts, insights and best practices on social media engagement.