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Engagement Is Everything

“It doesn’t have to be a snowman”

Jasmine
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There are many things that Jasmine needs: sustenance, protection, attention, reliability, and love to name just a few. And your audience needs the same (regular content, customer service, responses, reputation, and care, respectively). But beyond the basics of her life, she craves (and craves and craves) engagement. There’s no big lesson there; a child wants to play. But the learn has been that it rarely matters what form that engagement takes. She’ll take play time, story time, listening time, helping time, even bath time. To her, attention and interaction is absolutely the most important thing in the world, and I cringe at how many times I fail to provide it. I have vowed (many times) that the offer to “play with me daddy” will never be turned down, but it’s not always that easy. Heck, sometimes engagement is even a chore, and that is painful to admit.

Social marketing is no different. Have I always responded, 100%, to my audience on Facebook or Twitter? Have there been questions asked, doors opened, comments made that have just been ignored? Absolutely. Will I recognize, thank, or even see all of the social shares of even this particular post? It’s ideal, but the honest truth is a hard-to-swallow no. (That speaks to a larger issue of priorities, but this post will be long enough already, so I’ll save that topic for another day.) But every tweet, mention, and share is a possible invitation to play, and we should recognize that if we ignore or deprioritize these it’s at our own peril. Though you might not feel like building a snowman today, realize that it’s not the snoman that matters; it’s the engagement that your audience craves.

Lack Of Focus Is Okay

“I’ve started talking to
the pictures on the walls”

If I ask Jasmine to walk to the bathroom and brush her teeth, an entire hour can pass (okay, what seems like an hour) before she ultimately gets to her destination…if she ever does. On one hand, her ability to be distracted is maddening; on the other hand, it’s amazing how she sees possibility in everything. Color her Dug from Up (#squirrel!). What I am realizing is that her lack of focus is only part of the problem; the other part is my lack of patience. Cue the parallel to consumers, employees, and any other audience for your brand. Each one of us is constantly distracted, constantly looking somewhere else, constantly allowing our attention to be grabbed by any number of dings, beeps, alerts, and brain wanderings. As marketers, this drives us crazy because we want 100% of the focus on us, what we are producing, and what we are trying to say. But as regular people, we are the same exact way.

What I have learned from my daughter is that she needs pretty regular instruction, laser-focused guidance, and just enough leeway that she doesn’t realize she’s right on track. Too often, especially in social, we do the exact opposite of this. We post random words and images, we have no real strategy for CTAs (other than to always include one…somewhere), and we do a poor job with patience. Yes, it may take a prospect (much) longer than you’d like to progress in the funnel, but with patience and care, you can get your audience where you want them to go. Just realize that the patience-and-care part can’t be shortcutted. Without any clear plan of action, you’ll find the toothbrush in the underwear drawer, the stool turned upside down, and your audience in a totally different room of the house (#truestory). We tend to get very impatient due to the pressures to engage, convert, and ultimately prove ROI, but don’t blame the distracted; it’s in their (um, our) nature. Look at your own part of the process, and do your best to make the plan stupid simple to follow. In other words, hide the Elsa doll; otherwise, you’ll never really be the center of attention.

Words Matter

“I wish you would tell me why”

To a three-year-old, language is very fuzzy and fluid. It’s a great time of experimentation, learning, and play. But to a four-year-old, words suddenly become very important. The often-relied-upon “in a little while” or “later” just doesn’t cut it anymore; “Don’t touch” no longer seems to include using feet or elbows; and “you didn’t say [fill in the blank]” is heard almost every day. But not only are words important because they open up a new world of loopholes, they are important because they open up the grey area on the truth-lie spectrum. Yes, marketers, this should sound familiar.

Fuzzy language, partial truths, and sly misdirection have been part of marketing from its inception. Some would argue that it’s a necessity, others would argue that it’s an evil, and others would argue that it’s both, but the fact is that it’s part of the landscape. Never has a brand’s words mattered as much as they do in our current age of social marketing. I won’t trot out the normal list of brands who have gotten into serious hot water due to a word or phrase carelessly tweeted, but such are good reminders that our words, every single one of them, matter. Transparency and wicked clarity are the only tactics to combat an audience who loves the opportunity to prove authority wrong (yes, that audience includes four-year-olds). At the end of the day, my Jasmine is a reminder to me that no matter how temporary I think my words are, there is a lasting impact, and, just like social reminds us from time to time, those words, especially the ones we would like to take back, can be very, very permanent.

Love

“I’m right out here for you, just let me in”

No matter how much we prioritize engagement, focus smartly, and come to a common ground of communication, the relationship means nothing without love. Our job is to love our audience unconditionally, even though they will not always reciprocate. They may even hate us from time to time, and they might even have a very valid reason for that emotion, but we do not give up on the relationship, we do not write them off, and we do not hate them back. You might not always like your audience, but you should always love them (they are why you have a brand, right?). Luckily, my four-year-old has a few years to go before straight-up rebellion should kick in, but I know this lesson is coming, and I’m preparing for it now. As a brand, unconditional love (both giving and inspiring) should be of the highest priority, since all else (conversions, sales, loyalty, etc.) relies on it. And social is the best outlet we have ever had to foster such. When you look at your social channels, do you see love? Do you see love in the form of generosity, helpfulness, honesty, and engagement? How good are you at loving those whom you want to love you back? Social has turned a holiday card friendship into a daily relationship, and how you tend those relationships now will heavily inform when the tide turns. I’d advise you, and me, to prepare for the teenage years now. Because love, unconditional love, is the only way we will survive.

Engagement, Focus, Clarity, and Love

“Do you wanna build a snowman?”

First, I deeply apologize if Frozen is now stuck in your head, but welcome to the world of having a four-year-old daughter. And her birthday wish would actually be for you to be Frozen-filled today, so I’ll consider that your present to her. These four lessons, and how they relate to brand marketing, hit home with me today, and I thank you for taking the time to take this journey with me. I’m sure there are many more lessons to come, and there are likely many of you who have your own lessons to pass along. The comments area is there for you, so I encourage you to drop some wisdom for me, my team, and the rest of our readers. I’ve built the bottom level as a foundation, so who is going to help build the rest of this snowman? I’m hoping it’s you.

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ABOUT MATT HOLLOWELL

Matt Hollowell

Matt is a lifelong student of design, marketing, publishing, and content creation. His passion sits at the intersection of content and design; in fact, you can often find him there with a cup of coffee in one hand and a notepad in the other. As SME’s Creative Director, he supports both the brand and clients, which helps to satisfy his lifelong love of never knowing what’s coming next. When not at his desk, you’ll find Matt serenading his two amazing daughters, reading gritty British poetry, or obsessively listening to podcasts. Send him your podcast reccs here: @mhollowell.

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