If I hear the word “engaging” one more time, I just might start to cut myself. I admit it, I still use it constantly. But when a term is thrown about so often, it starts to lack substance. As social media continues to grow and the mobile revolution shapes the way brands communicate with consumers, we need to better understand how to instigate these worthwhile conversations. “Be engaging” no longer works when selling clients on a social media campaign.

And yes, these conversations you want to start? They must first be instigated. They’re not handed to you by social media faeries.

The term “engagement” simply means to hold someone’s attention. Of course brands want to do this. It’s been a goal since the beginning of marketing – it isn’t a new concept as a result of the social surge. However, with social, different tactics must be in place on each platform to grab and hold consumers’ attentions, and have them react to material.

Ask yourself:

What does my target consumer want when spending time on these sites?
What will resonate well and encourage some form of interaction?

The idea of “engagement” won’t tell you that. Engagement, itself, is a hallow term. You have to determine what it means to your business.

So let’s give it meaning. Below are some practical examples of engagement in the wild.

How To Be Engaging In Social Media

  • Pay attention to current events. The World Series was on and 200,000 people were tweeting #SFGiants and #Tigers during 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Did your brand jump in?
  • Be yourself (behind the brand). Saw a funny article that made you laugh? Guess what, if you are in the target for your product, then someone else will probably think it’s funny too. Post it. Over time, an online personality will develop for the brand and people will become familiar with that voice.
  • Mix it up. Just because you sell windshield wiper fluid doesn’t mean that a buyer wouldn’t find it worthwhile to read an article on the coolest vacation spots. Do you post the same things everyday on your personal pages? Neither should your brand.
  • Have something to offer. This is not a free investment. You really want to get peoples’ attention – create stuff. Hold contests, do promotions, create infographics, hold publicity stunts and take photos. Do things other brands are not doing. Additionally, tie in traditional advertising and mobile marketing campaigns into your channels to boost reach and drive new users to these pages. I’ll say it again, social media is not free.
  • Be a quick resource. We don’t live in the age of the 9-5 customer service line anymore. People immediately go to social media for complaints and questions. Answer them quickly and accurately for the best effect.
  • Be a good storyteller. The businesses that tell the best stories have the biggest competitive advantage. We tune in to watch the story unfold and learn what it would be like to be part of the brand.
  • Give people what they want. More than what a consumer wants when engaging on Twitter, what do they want from your brand on Twitter? Is it customer support? Is it links to articles they may find interesting? Is it the chance to have a conversation? Is deals or discounts? If you don’t know, ask? Once you think you know, try different things and see what works.

Measure Success

Measurement is always on our mind because we want to identify our return on investment. Don’t just focus on likes, shares, comment and @s – focus on the social media metrics that matter to your business.

This may mean benchmarking and measuring:

  • Your conversion rate. For example, this may include a user signing up for a newsletter subscription, filling out a contact form, downloading a free trial of your product or hard leads coming into your business.
  • SEO value. This may include links back to your blog post and/or website, or increase search visibility due to social factors.
  • Traffic. All of your social media accounts should serve to drive traffic back to your website, Is targeted traffic increasing? Where is it coming from?

It’s important to remember that social media is a long-term strategy. Measuring week-by-week can drive you nuts and make you concerned for no reason.

Taylor Swift can say “What’s Up” and get 1,000 RTs and a few hundreds responses. Your brand can’t. You need to find a way to do social better and actually have conversations. That means not only starting those conversations, but seeking them out.

People will listen if you give them a reason to.