Without this missing piece, corporations are undermining the effectiveness of their overall marketing efforts. As important as this strategy is, you will rarely see authentic engagement measured or even discussed on a marketing report.
Authentic engagement is all about building relationships, and relationships can be hard to measure. You can think of these types of interactions as reaching the highest level of involvement on the relationship ladder. We say authentic engagement to differentiate it from relationships where a client is simply that—just a client; not actively engaged with your company…a client out of convenience.
To give you an example of an authentically engaged client versus a regular client, let us look at Joe and Sally. Joe is involved with the fast food joint that takes his order and gives him what he asks for. Joe is a regular customer. Sally on the other hand is engaged with her favorite restaurant where they know her by name, and can give her trusted recommendations based on what she likes. Point being: while Joe might like the fast food restaurant, Sally will recommend her favorite restaurant to all of her friends. On a business level, this is the difference between company that sells you only what you ask for and one that takes the time to find out what you really need.
Authentic engagement is not just about acquiring a client, it is about building a relationship that brings that client back and has them recommending you to friends and peers. Authentically engaged people are powerful assets who specifically listen to and for your message (which helps you bypass the noise barrier on social media). They can also converse with you and share your messages, helping you to build a larger brand footprint in social media spaces, and to ultimately reach larger audiences.
This comes at a price though–you need to invest effort in order to generate this type of engagement.
How to create authentic engagement for B2B
A great way to think about the process of building authentic engagement is by comparing it to a networking event. In a networking event, you meet several people, but it is not enough to just meet with them and learn their names. Authentic engagement is about connecting with people; more than simply knowing who they are or adding them to a followers list on social media.
In a networking event, participants are provided with a starter—a conversation topic or exercise. The key is to use this tool in order to open a genuine conversation between participants. Sharing content on social media channels provides the same sort of starter for online conversations. Once the conversation has begun online, you are starting to engage with your audience.
Once the initial hurdle of starting the conversation is overcome, you can proceed to engage with people. Authentic engagement comes from having that conversation. You must listen to what people are saying, and engage them based on their individual circumstances. This requires significantly more time and resources than the older style of broadcast marketing, but if you apply it correctly, the benefits to your ROI can be significant.
The role of content in authentic engagement
The conversations that help generate authentic engagement don’t just magically happen. They grow from the circumstances you create. Content is the seed which grows into a conversation. Visible and valuable content is very powerful. When someone like an employee shares content on a specific subject, they identify themselves to others as the “right” person to converse with on that topic. Identifying yourself in that way helps you act as a beacon for people interested in that topic. When you build connections with those people, you also get access to all the connected individuals in their peer group.
Once this exchange has started, properly created content will continue to provide value to people interacting with your company. In return for their attention and engagement, you can provide them with subject matter that addresses the challenges and pain points in their lives.
The role of employees in building authentic engagement
If you are doing it right, your engagement efforts will not be limited to your clients alone…in fact internal engagement will enhance the entire process. Employee engagement efforts pay significant dividends when it comes to your bottom line.
Enabling your employees to engage on social media can be both exciting and intimidating. Unfortunately, a surprisingly large number of companies still avoid the employee/social media question entirely by blocking access to social media sites for employees while at work. Still, there are other companies who do not believe that their employees even discuss them on social media.
The truth of the matter is that 50% of employees are already talking about their company online, and as Glenn Gaudet, our founder and president says:
“It doesn’t take a lot of employees to have a tremendous impact in amplifying your content.”
Even better, for many enterprise sized companies, the total social media audience of employees exceeds the audience of the official corporate accounts.
By engaging your employees in the promotion of your message, you tap a pool of people who already believe in your product or service. These employees help build and sustain your company, so they are stakeholders in its continued success. Employees each have their own audiences on social media, so if they share the same message on their personal accounts that you are sharing on the corporate account, the results are amazingly amplified.
Distribution and promotion with impact
The magic of authentic engagement occurs when everyone—employees and clients alike—are on the same page, using the same message. That message resonates and is magnified, and will help generate leads and clients for your organization.
By engaging employees, channel partners, and other stakeholders in the communication process by sharing content with them, you also access their audiences. You not only increase your distribution network, you also improve the impact of your message – brand messages shared by other people are generally more favorably received than messages sent directly from a company.
Can engagement be scaled? The simple answer is yes. The more honest answer is, “yes, but the process is anything but simple”.
In order to scale engagement, you have to start by identifying everyone who can share messages about your organization and get them all on the same page. Then you need to provide all of those participants with the kind of content that offers value to potential leads. Simultaneously managing dozens (or hundreds) of messages on multiple sites while also managing your employees can seem like a tedious task, but in truth, it can be done with the right resources. Running these steps in larger quantities and scaling up your engagement process is much more manageable when using the appropriate technology.
Download our eBook below to learn more about authentic engagement and what it means for your marketing strategy.