Social media is all about engagement. It’s a two-way conversation in real time that involves both listening and responding.

When I talk at events I frequently use the title ‘What’s the point of…’. If I had just one slide and one minute to answer that question it would be with this quote from Doug Rouzen, Ex-Vice President of leading loyalty management company, Aimia:

“Today’s approach to social media measurement – racking up the most likes, retweets, followers and recommendations – is the wrong approach. Marketers must define success not by social media activity, but rather by customer value and engagement.”

The relationship building benefits of social media will never be realised with a counter – quality will always win over quantity.

The mantra of marketing – ‘right message, right place, right time, right people’ – reminds us to identify, anticipate and satisfy the needs of our customers, profitably. Using mass marketing and broadcast communications to achieve this objective is no longer effective. In today’s business environment, one-to-one, personalised messages are the only way to cut through the clutter of communications.

Understanding the needs and wants of our audience is the way to add real value. Listening enables us to respond with solutions, and social media offers brilliant, real-time market insight.

Those using social media work hard to attract an audience but often forget the next step – engagement.

The engagement process varies depending on the product, service or persona being represented on social media. Messaging can be tailored to different stages of the buying process – where customer needs for information vary. At all times, staying front of mind with regular activity, such as status updates, is essential.

Content is critical: including links within your messages provides the greatest level of engagement, and clicking through for further information – preferably hosted on your own website or other platform – is a positive step that we need to encourage.

Other forms of engagement are common to social media tools, though the terminology may differ slightly: comment, like and share.

Comments from customers or potential clients give us valuable feedback and insight, and enable us to identify active influencers who can share our messages with their own network. When people ‘like’ our content they’re identifying themselves as having an interest, and when they share it with their own connections they’re influencing, supporting and – most importantly – extending our reach to a wider audience.

Always respond to comments that are in any way critical – negative feedback is an opportunity to address issues you might not be aware of. If comments are positive, show how you plan to use the information – perhaps as a testimonial for your website.

It’s easy to respond to engagement from your audience – a simple “Thanks for the feedback” or “Thanks for the share” shows that you care and appreciate your audience. After all, everyone appreciates a cyber hug now and again.