Learn from email marketing for social media engagement #SMWF

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from this year’s Social Media World Forum, it’s that engagement is the Holy Grail.

But the story’s not quite as simple as that, as a packed conference room discovered during a panel session featuring representatives from the BBC, EngageSciences, UNICEF and American Express.

“Likes don’t buy you love – that’s a reality,” commented Carl Barkey, head of social media and customer engagement at American Express.  “We don’t believe social is a primary acquisition channel, but it is about driving engagement and loyalty.”

Yet the ecosystem is indeed maturing – as moderator Paul Papadimitrou pointed out: “brands have learnt physically to let go a bit.”

Simply playing a numbers game isn’t going to cut the mustard anymore, so engagement is the name of the game.

But it’s not a hitherto unknown idea. “The platforms may be new, but the concept of engaging with our audience definitely isn’t,” noted Sophie Brendel, BBC head of digital communications, adding: “We spend a lot of time realising what audiences are interested in, what makes a rich community.

“Social’s about bringing people closer to the BBC and closer to the brands they love, making us more open, more transparent.”

So what are the trends driving this? According to Richard Jones, CEO of EngageSciences, there’s a similar pattern emerging following the maturation of email marketing, emphasising that ‘spray and pray’ was still the nadir.

“We’ve got great engagement on this post, but who engaged?” Jones asks, adding: “Did these people engage previously?

“You need to track every interaction on an individual level. It’s important to make that fundamental change. Once you’ve got that data, and you’re tracking these individuals, you can do some really interesting stuff with it.”

It’s an ever-evolving big data landscape out there, with companies all fighting tooth and nail to get the most out of the opportunities presented, and not being thrown by the red herrings of negative respondents.

“Not all fans are equal,” opined Jones. “Traditionally we see all fans as equal, but when you’ve got the data behind it…the actual engaged community, they’re the ones you want to care about – but you need to know who they are.”

“The key thing is who is it that’s talking, and how do you respond?” added Barkey, who noted that as a rule, American Express doesn’t intervene with regards to negative feedback.

“In social, people can go from advocacy to detracting so quickly, and it’s just about how you manage that. It’s important how a company responds to these comments,” he added.

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