Marketing in the World of Social Media is About Engagement


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Marketing in the world of social media is about engaging your customers and non-customers. In a broad sense, it closely relates to branding, PR, sales, and customer support. In short, you have to create relevant and compelling content so that you can attract attention; no matter what kind of activities you want to engage customers with in your next steps. You want your customers to talk with you – by leaving message, posting on your blog, following your company tweets, etc.

Figure 1: Touch-point Experience across the Customer Lifecycle – Engaging

I love to write about social media and marketing but when I reviewed the outline, I see that I am sandwiched in between “Social Media and Branding/PR” and “Social Media and Sales” which is followed by “Social Media and Customer Service.”

I find myself trying to figure out how to separate marketing from branding and sales in a world of social media. It begs the question, “What is the role of marketing?” With social media, I can:

  • Create buzz (branding and PR)
  • Nurture a community (branding and PR)
  • Offer time-sensitive discounts (direct sales)
  • Answer prospect and client questions (customer support)
  • Share interesting tidbits (branding and PR)
  • Establish an industry personality (branding and PR)
  • Promote an event (direct sales)
  • and so much more.

When I started talking about web analytics as a window into the hearts and mind of the marketplace, it was the direct mail people who understood it first. They were used to years of catalog testing across different lists in different months and days of the week. Life was simple then. Advertising was meant to drive traffic to websites which were built to convert browsers into buyers. Business to business websites were built to convert browsers to qualified leads. But then things shifted.

Today, social media has put the company’s reputation well and truly into the hands of the public and this has created a struggle for the Marketing Department. Brand managers need to join the conversation out in the sociosphere. Direct sales people need to understand their impact on the company brand if they push too hard, too often or too irrelevantly. PR people need to get everybody to change their communication mentality from broadcast to conversational. Product managers must understand that the contact center now establishes the product brand in the eye of the buying public.

So when asked to write about social media and marketing outside of its role in branding, direct sales and customer support, I have to admit defeat.

This document “Social Media under One Roof: Integrate Social Media with the TCE Model” is composed of nine sections. Three sections are written by Sampson Lee, and experts in each specific domain contributed the other six sections: Wendy Soucie from Wendy Soucie Consulting; Karl Havard from pownum; Jim Sterne from Web Analytics Association; Axel Schultze from Xeesm; Rick Mans from Capgemini; and Guy Stephens from Foviance.

Section ONE: Where Social Media meets Customer Life Stages
Section TWO: Social Media and Research & Development
Section THREE: Social Media and Branding/Public Relations
Section FOUR: Social Media and Marketing
Section FIVE: Social Media and Sales
Section SIX: Social Media and Operations
Section SEVEN: Social Media and Customer Service
Section EIGHT: Integrating Social Media with Total Customer Experience
Section NINE: Managing Your Brand and Social Media with One System

Click here to read the 30-page complete document in PDF format.


  1. Great post. I just downloaded the PDF. I can’t stress how critical integration is to an engagement strategy. Unfortunately, companies don’t place enough emphasis on the internal alignment of PR, marketing, sales, customer service and community management. The result is inefficiency, duplication, inconsistent messaging and lost opportunities. Internal integration goes a long way to maximizing your engagement with key outside influencers. [Full disclosure – I am producing a conference in NY called PR+MKTG Camp East that focuses on the subject of integration and engagement.]

  2. I understand what you’re trying to say here Jim. I had a conversation the other day with someone about how social media is not just about brand awareness. As the conversation moved on, I kind of realized that although you can do many things through social media such as marketing, customer service, finding and using lead, etc. it all comes back to brand awareness in the end.
    As much as you can try to separate all of these different functions, they always come back to brand awareness. This happens because in social media everything is done in public. Whether it’s just answering a customers question or sharing your latest blog post, all this is done in public so that anyone can see, which is bringing awareness of some sort to your brand.
    You can say that you’re doing all kinds of different things with different departments of your company through social media, but in the end it always comes back to building brand awareness.


    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  3. First of all, I disagree with the term engagement, as many don’t understand it, there is no common meaning, and it’s not got any commonly held operationalized definition.

    More important is that those of us who have been on the Internet doing business for 10-12 years know that engagement is NOT the key at all where engagement is defined as a focus of attention.

    One of the reasons YouTube has been a disaster regarding profitablity (so far, but it looks like this will change this year), is that millions and millions of people are “engaged” in watching the videos, and ignore ads, or other ways to separate them from their money.

    Historically it’s the same for the most engaging sticky sites, such as bulletin boards and forums.

  4. So true about the lack of any commonly held operational definition. From my perspective, engagement is a proactive interaction with key target audiences. In traditional media, we only cared about the transaction; we still do. But now there are some many public forums where dissatisfied customers can vent. We have no choice but to engage. And various communications channels must be aligned. IMHO a successful integrated engagement strategy would look at such issues as:

    • Clarifying customer relationships (what is your relationship to your customer within your organization, is there overlap with other departments, how do you delineate personal and professional)
    • Improving messaging practices (what is the message, who is the messenger, and what channels do you use to communicate)
    • Establishing hand off processes (how is the proliferation of data and leads collected and information distributed internally)
    • Streamlining follow up procedures (how is the customer served)
    • Defining shared performance metrics (what constitutes success and how is it shared)

  5. I disagree on many of your points, what the heck, sometimes we’re all groping in the dark. First, the data I’ve looked at suggests that the actual effects for most businesses of ignoring social media complaints (ie. NOT engage), is going to be just about zero. So, no you don’t have to engage. That’s a myth. The effective reach of most people on social media is so tiny, it really doesn’t count in business terms. That probably seems counter-intuitive but think about it. Of, let’s say 1000 followers on Twitter, or anywhere, how many will actually see a specific complaint? How many will actually act on it in real life? People forget that most people, even friends and followers, aren’t going to see what is written. AND, what they say online and what they do in real life are two completely separate, but loosely related things.

    THere will be some rare exceptions, but not many.

    As for your definition of engagement, it doesn’t work for me. Engagement, in my view is a state of mind that involves focus, attention, and interaction with that which is engaged with. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with even my own definition.


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