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Businesses Need More than Engagement

I call it Corporate Small Talk.

It works like this. Some nameless marketing exec tells her staff that she wants to boost engagement.

The staff, after some quick research, discovers that @mentions, comments, and retweets count as engagement. Excited, the team fires up Hootsuite and starts sending out a litany of tweets and Facebook updates.

The goal is to get a reaction. Since this is Corporate Small Talk the monologue is sanitized and forgettable.

  • What’s your plans for the weekend?
  • What do you think of our holiday decorations?
  • What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

Professional Twitter and Facebook dwellers nibble on the hook, registering a like or @mention. Roving social media monitoring tools suck up the datum and spit it out in fancy reports.

Thirty-days later, the team shows off their performance. Mission accomplished. Engagement has been created and delivered.

Sales? Opt-ins? Leads?

Not so much.

Do we really want small talk inspired engagement or something more?

I’ve been challenged recently to focus on the non-social media crowd. It was pointed out that it’s easy to prescribe solutions for the social paparazzi. Afterall, these folks spend their life in the space so it’s easy for them to carry out my lofty dictums.

Fair point.

When I thought of applying engagement to the local dry cleaner and cake maker – I quickly realized that something was missing.

What was it?


The cake maker doesn’t have time to banter on Twitter, he needs to be baking and selling cakes.

The local dry cleaner doesn’t have time to post photos on Facebook, he’s worried about servicing the new office building down the street.

The CMO for the ballpoint pen spring manufacturer will never line-item Google+ on her  time sheet.

These folks can’t engage. They don’t have the time or inclination. Engagement is a dog that just won’t hunt.

If they are going to take the time to do anything it needs to relate directly to profits.  They are willing to be patient but every action should lead to clear revenue-focused benefits.

What Social Business is Really About

I’ve helped hundreds of business owners get their head wrapped around social media and online marketing. I’ve sat with them as they tried to decide how to split up their marketing budget in a way that delivers the most results at the least cost.

Every single one of these professionals want to know one thing…

What are their buyers thinking?

That’s right. They want me to come into their office with a Magic Eight Ball – shake it and show them how a customer will respond to a new feature, benefit, or value proposition.

They want to know how they can get their prospects to articulate their needs.

They crave feedback because traditional marketing tools like focus groups have let them down.

I just recently put my finger on what they want from their marketing communications – RESONANCE.

It takes Two to Resonate

Engagement is about banter. I can engage with anything if I get a response. The quality really doesn’t matter.

Resonance is completely about quality.

Two notes either can clash our harmonize. Two colors can either oppose or complement.

A brand and prospect can “get” each other or clash. The social media practitioner that relies on engagement is missing the point. The real pros seek to use social media to match a brand’s vision with a customer’s desire. Once that happens, you have resonance.

Not Semantics

This isn’t word substitution. This is a mindset transplant. Resonators get up close and personal with customers. They spend an inordinate amount of time listening and questioning. They start with customer service. They ask why a customer picked one product over another. They hang out at digital water coolers and take notes.

Once they understand the customer, they look for better ways to communicate the brand. Surprisingly they may not choose social media. They may decide to do a print ad. Apple did. They may decide that a wrist band makes more sense like the Live Strong organization.

Other times, the resonator may choose a social platform. Most often they select the spot that can communicate the most meaning to the largest share of their audience. Their research points the way, their instinct for meaningful communications inspires them to create content that matters.


So the Coffee Shop owner films his ritual of roasting beans and puts the video on YouTube. Not to engage, but to show that he “gets” what it means to have the perfect cup of coffee.

That dry cleaner publishes a list of time-saving personal hygiene tips on Google+. Not because he particularly likes Google+, but because he knows that his high-tech clientele keeps talking about it on their company twitter streams.

The cake makers makes sure she gets a picture of the birthday girl with her cake because she knows that parents can’t resist tagging the photos on Facebook.

Resonators don’t consider themselves social media experts. They take pride in knowing their audience better than their audience knows themselves.

These folks aren’t engaging. They are resonating.

Time to rethink. Engagement just won’t cut it anymore.


Image Credit: eurok

About Stan

Stan Smith is the CEO of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

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