This next section provides a conceptual starting point in understanding how the critical activities of engagement and response are enabled through the adoption of social technology and supporting processes. Beware: It’s a different viewpoint than that which applies to “engagement” in traditional media. Engagement is redefined by consumers when acting in an open, participative social environment. This is a very different context than the “read-only” setting in which traditional media defines “engagement,” so take the time here to understand the four stages of engagement. Engagement on the Social Web means customers or stakeholders become participants rather than viewers.
It’s the difference between seeing a movie and participating in a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The difference is participation. Engagement, in a social business sense, means your customers are willing to take their time and energy and talk to you—as well as about you—in conversation and through processes that impact your business.
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They are willing to participate, and it is this participation that defines engagement in the context of the Social Web. The engagement process is, therefore, fundamental to successful social marketing and to the establishment of successful social business practices. Engagement in a social context implies that customers have taken a personal interest in what you are bringing to the market. In an expanded sense, this applies to any stakeholder and carries the same notion:
A personal interest in your business outcome has been established. This applies to customers, to partners, to employees, to anyone and everyone who can express and share an opinion or idea somewhere along your path to market. Consider the purchase funnel shown in Figure 1.1. As customer conversations enter the purchase cycle in the consideration phase of the sales process, there is a larger implication: Your customer is now a part of your marketing department. In fact, your customers and what they think and share with each other form the foundation of your business or organization.
The impact is both subtle and profound: Subtle in the sense that on the surface much of “social business” amounts to running a business the way a business ought to be run. Businesses exist—ultimately—to serve customers through whose patronage the founders, employees, shareholders, and others derive (generally) an economic benefit as 12c h a p t e r 1: SOCIAL MEDIA AND CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT ■ they are ensured a future in running that business. At times, however, it seems the customer gets dropped from that set.
The result can be seen on Twitter most any day by searching for the hashtag #FAIL. It’s also a profound change, however, in the sense that the stakes in pleasing the customer are now much higher. Customers are more knowledgeable and more vocal about they want, and they are better prepared to let others know about it in cases of over-delivery or under-delivery.
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On top of that, not only are customers seeing what the business and the industry are doing, they are building their own expectations for your business based on what every other business they work with is doing. If Walmart can quickly tap Bazaarvoice and put ratings and reviews on any product it sells, the expectation is that
American Airlines will prominently place customer ratings on every fl ight it fl ies. Think about it: If fl ight attendants, by fl ight, were rated according to service and demeanor by past fl iers and that information was used to make future fl ight choices in the same way as on-time performance, how would the fl ying experience overall change? It happens in restaurants: We all have a favorite waitperson.
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