Stop Telling People to Be Engaging on Social Media

Have you noticed how bad I am at keeping up my blog? I can write in short form till the cows come home, but if you want long form…okay, yes I do that too, and do it well, but I get busy. At least that’s the excuse I’ve given my newly hired assistant. I don’t think she believes me.

So I’m jumping off 2018 by hopping up on my soapbox about something that has bugged the ish out of me ever since I got into social media marketing (back when the dinosaurs were only using an iPhone 1), and that’s this concept of posting engaging content.

How many of you have ever read an article (or fifty) that says that if you want to grow your business and your followers, you need to write content that’s engaging? You gotta grab your audience’s attention and give them something worth responding to. Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em angry, make ‘em think.

You know the drill, I know you do. Because if even one of you isn’t nodding your head that you’ve read these very words at one time or another, you’re a lying liar who lies, and you should be in PR, not marketing.

Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all been told that to get engagement we need to be interesting.

And yet, in not one single article have I ever had the word engage explained to me. Telling me what emotions I need to invoke isn’t enough (because that’s a given), I want explained to me what an actual engaging post looks like.

I can already hear half of you shouting, ‘LOTS OF ARTICLES GIVE EXAMPLES, YOU CLEARLY HAVEN’T READ ENOUGH!’

I have, and I’ve seen those examples you’re shouting about, so let me ask this question instead: How many of those examples made sense for you and your business?

I’m going to guess not that many. And here is where that term has irked me for eons: It’s so vague, so stupidly duh in telling us what we need to do for social, but it doesn’t help solve the problem what does that mean for my business or yours.

What does it mean for a high end children’s clothing brand?

What does it mean for a lighting company that’s garnered a sponsorship on two major TV shows?

What does it mean for a political activist channel that aims strictly for bipartisanship?

What does it mean for a documentary?

Or an indie film designed for a cult following?

Or a summit for interior designers?

Or a social media agency?

Or or or or or

And if you want to add insult to injury, what about three indie films designed for a cult following? They still have to approach engagement differently because each film speaks to a different audience. Same goes for every event project I’ve worked on, every product, every non-profit, every whatever.

It should be noted that every single one of these are projects I’ve worked on, and the answer to what is engaging was always vastly different across every single one, because obviously, each business model is vastly different.

To ‘be engaging’ is one of the stupidest phrases tossed around in social media marketing because even when you know what your product is about, you still have to figure out what about your product will be engaging to the end user. And copying benchmarking someone else’s style doesn’t work like it used to because we’re in the age of information overload. You create a similar style to a similar brand and run it against a similar audience and you’re the fifteenth version of that they’ve seen this week. No wonder Facebook is augmenting the algorithm to lean more towards family and friends.

So what do you do then? I mean, being engaging is important, but what does that mean for you?

I wish the answer was simple. I wish my ranting came with a clear cut answer; it doesn’t. But here’s what  I can tell you. Start with these three important thoughts:

What does your brand say to you.

Who do you believe is your target audience.

What do you feel comfortable with.

Is your brand left of center, but you aren’t comfortable saying fuck in a post? Or is your target audience hard to nail down because it could be many different types of people? Do you even know yet what your message is, outside of some vague notion of what your product does?

Get those answers – nail them down. Once you can answer those three basic principles, you can start the process of A/B testing. And that is where you’ll learn what gets your audience’s attention, what they find engaging. And at the end of the day, your consumer’s opinion is really the only one that matters. So let them do the heavy lifting for you, not some article that can’t even answer its own advice.

Posted by Stephanie Cole

Leave a Reply