Social Media Marketing: Terms of Engagement

business relationshipsRelationships – sort of a throw around term in social media. Social media is about building relationships and getting to know people especially before you sell them but as a product or even a service how do you really build that relationship? Reward? Fan us on Facebook or friend us on Twitter and get a coupon? That is building a fan base and possibly brand loyalty but not a relationship. As a product and service, you strive to be top of mind, provide superior customer service and a product/service that overall leaves the consumer with a positive experience.

Relationships differ from person to person on what they consider a relationship. Social media has bridged the gap and allowed marketers to learn a bit how people view relationships with people and brands. Interpersonal relationships between 2 people on a social media platform have become easier to “listen” to and ultimately engage with but what about a brand?  Do people really want to build a relationship with their deodorant or vegetables? Does the brand build the relationship or the merchant selling the brand? Or both?

The goal of any brand is to be top of mind when the consumer is ready to buy. Brands engaging in social media are able to see how consumers are interacting with their product and be reactive but what about being proactive? How do you talk to potential customers without being noise or rejected?

Social Media Relationships

1. Big Brand. Big brands are generally well known and do have a better chance of being fanned, followed, talked about, etc. But what about when they reach out to consumers to try and build relationships in social media? Are they accepted? There are a few factors to consider with big brands as it relates directly to purchasing.

a. Brick and mortar setting.  Being prominently displayed, having a perceived value over competitors and at a price point that is acceptable increases sales.

b. Social Media. In social media, being top of mind when they are ready to buy increases sales. The difference here is that the price point is not as big of a factor as there are not other choices right next to your brand.  You have an opportunity to humanize the brand and be available to answer questions, provide real time responses and an exposure to the online community that is already familiar with your brand.

2. Merchant.  As the merchant that is selling the brands you are carrying multiple brands and many choices for consumers. Your focus is on the stocking of the shelves but also the consumer experience once they enter your store.  If you are carrying one brand that is highly favorable to consumers and not another one but acceptable alternatives consumers will continue to frequent your store.  Pricing and convenience is a big factor but if you are not carrying the brands that consumers want, they will go elsewhere.

3. Small Business.  As a small business competing with the big brands used to be nearly impossible. Social media is changing that.  Small businesses are probably the biggest beneficiaries of social media. You are no longer the little guy with the small advertising and marketing budget. The playing field has leveled out as social media is about who best is able to be top of mind and engage customers in a manner they find acceptable.  There are not 5 or 6 different departments trying to determine who will be the voice of the brand. There is 1 and that 1 done correctly can emerge as the leader.  Big brands are at a disadvantage here as people may leave or not represent the company in the way that the company desires, where with the small business this is removed.

The question still remains on how does a brand build a relationship with consumers?  Interacting with consumers in a manner that is acceptable not as easy as asking for feedback.  “Thank you for trying our deodorant – did it protect you or did you stink” or “How did you like our vegetables – did they digest properly?”  This not to say that they should avoid social media but their engagement differs.  They could cross promote where if a certain merchant has a special one week and another the week after, a coupon, focus on the ingredients they use as opposed to another, the texture, etc.

As you think about how best to engage your target and be top of mind, remember relationships with brands do not necessarily need to be long engagements.  Keeping the conversation going is almost impossible as they are only ready to think about you are talk about or with you when they need you.

Thoughts?  Do brands have to have long engagements to be successful or are the short term being top of mind when needed a better strategy?

photo credit: DerrickT

  • I believe that if you are engaging in social media marketing this engagement should be long term as I do not see how relationship building and maintainmemnt can be achieved with a short term strategy.
    Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 3:03 AM by Victor Stoyanov


    How do you engage consumers regularly if here is not anything new to say? How does it not become annoying and cause them to not want to continue the relationship? Top of mind, providing a great product or service and a positive consumer experience. Short term would be just as effective as long term.
    Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 3:07 AM by Suzanne Vara

    Nice post. I found some interesting stuff on
    Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 4:15 AM by lara


    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. The idea that relationships with a brand will be long lasting and you will converse with customers or potential customers regularly is just not practical and certainly not a strategy to implement. Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 12:30 PM by Suzanne Vara

    Suzanne, great article and thanks for sharing. I wrote a similar post recently about the different approaches for social marketing. Size and bandwidth are factors, certainly, as is the type of merchant you are.

    Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 12:59 PM by Mike Hanbery

    You make some really strong points. You can't force a relationship. I think we need to flip the funnel to be successful in social media.
    Here is how you laid it out:
    “As a product and service, you strive to be top of mind, provide superior customer service and a product/service that overall leaves the consumer with a positive experience.”
    The problem is that 90% of our focus is on the first part still with social media. We're still desperately trying to create awareness. We do it to the detriment of getting the second and third part right. We need to deliver an exceptional customer experience that exceeds expectations.
    What if we flipped the funnel and focused 90% on the customer experience. I think the answer is a concept called marketing lagniappe, i.e. purple goldfish (giving a signature little unexpected extra). Get it right and you'll give your customers something to talk, blog, tweet and post about.
    Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 2:10 PM by Stan Phelps


    ooh, that is a thought here. Though my question would be how would they have an experience if they have not been exposed. I think the social media part of who you are targeting is important but what level are they at with respect to your social media efforts. We think of buyer process/chain and where are they but the focus of where the consumer is in the social media chain as it relates how you approach: gain awareness, are aware need selling to them and those aware, have bought and now establishing loyalty is a big factor. The last 2 will get people to talk much more.

    I think that this is missed in the social media efforts as people want to jump in but do not consider where their audience is at. Once that is determined, then providing that little extra is the ONLY way to be successful.
    Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 3:48 PM by Suzanne Vara

    Thanks for your reply. My point is to flip the traditional funnel and focus on your current customers first. Its a paradigm shift. Provide an unbelievable customer experience by dedicating you time and budget to give that little signature extra lagniappe. Exceed expectations in order to drive positive word of mouth (90%) and social media gold . . . word of mouse (10%).
    Once you've noticed their tweet or post . . . only then do you engage in order to cultivate a relationship.
    My take is that most businesses get focused on the shiny new object and forget that the best marketing tool is standing right in front of them . . . their current customers.
    Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 5:49 PM by Stan Phelps


    Now I see what you mean. I agree and to employ that strategy in SM, you go to the loyalists who are already purchasers and target them with the social media efforts. The level of customer service to these people would have been excellent to make them repeat customers and build the SM efforts there.

    yes companies are focusing on the shiny new object and going at social media as a catch all which really is the trad adv model. Handle the business that you have and bring them online with you and handle them better than ever, once you have established this, then and only then, should you branch out and take on new relationships in many cases.

    Excellent addition to the post that is a great reminder for everyone and probably a new post =-).
    Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 5:54 PM by Suzanne Vara

    The best way to implement social media in short or long-term marketing strategy is to remove me, myself and I out of the equation. In other words, make your efforts about everything except your brand and you’ll always have something to talk about. Why? Because what you WANT is not always what customers NEED hence, why MySpace and Facebook fans in particular engage sporadically versus continually with favorite brands.

    In an ad saturated marketplace right down to bathroom stalls, lunch counters and hand held devices, obsessing over being noticed and getting a sale is the quickest way to be ignored or even categorized as junk mail. In a real relationship like marriage, friendship, employment and business partnerships you sell once and engage the rest of the time. In a real relationship, if you’re constantly trying to sell yourself it’s because you’re not a best fit or very uncertain about the other party’s commitment/interest. The same applies to marketing a product to current and prospective customers.

    The goal with social media should be to find and provide 1. hardcore fans or 2. customers with a need you can fill with information and opportunities that benefit them.

    Meeting the needs of your target audience is key for relationship building.
    Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 6:31 PM by Isha Edwards, Brand Mktg. Mgr.


    Interesting post. For me the issue is not short v long-term, it is relevance. Social media only works when the content and channel is relevant to the audience.

    Each person has different communication expectations/requirements. Many have no interest in long term engagement and simply want to make a purchase, have the fallback of customer service when needed and have no more hassle.

    However, there is a % of any audience that wants to feel part of something and is open to building a lasting relationship (whether lasting means months or years).

    The challenge with social is no different to other communicatio channels; to find the right people to engage with. However, Social media offers greater potential than other channels for identifying and engaging with people who are likely to be brand loyal and even act as embassadors.

    When deciding how much time/money to invest in social media, you need to first define your goals and then look at the business case. If spending 1hr per week on Twitter builds a follower base of 10,000 people of whom 20% regularly click through to your site and 5% spread word of mouth, does the outcome justify your continued effort? that's why for me everything comes back to relevance.

    Posted @ Tuesday, January 05, 2010 10:12 AM by James Gurd

  • Abhiyan

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