Is Social Media Really that Engaging?

I was having a coffee and chat with David and the team at O Street a couple of weeks ago. The creative studio is located on Bank Street, Glasgow. I’m going to be using the space for a KILTR research event in early May and during the planning we got chatting about social media. Its days like this that I live for! Can someone please pay me to go and chat to people about social media, just chat and learn from them?!

OK, let’s get this back on track…
We were chatting about ‘engagement’. I’ve always proclaimed that engagement is severely overused and not accurately defined for the context of social media. Interaction possibly but engagement means something deeper and active. Not fleeting and almost passive. In our chat David felt that social media is not really that engaging (unprompted by me). I agreed.

I have to add for sake of clarity that there will be people who are actively engaged but the predominant bulk of fans, followers, or whatever you want to call them will not be actively engaged.

So, why does social media lack engagement?
There are a few answers to this. The first is the medium itself. Each social media platform is different, the philosophy and psychology behind the platform different, as well how the engagement [interaction] is facilitated. Essentially engagement or potential engagement runs on a continuum from low to high which is moderated by the speed of posts – I’ll not go too deeply into this just now as it’s a whole research paper in its own right.

The second is how users engage with the platforms, their tactics for engagement. A lot of people are still reliant on traditional broadcast communication tactics. People are not engaging. What is being published lacks engagement and then people are disheartened because ‘social’ is not working. For instance in this month’s Harvard Business Review it was reported that 25% of all tweets are not worth reading! So if they are not worth reading they won’t be worth replying to. It is a balance to get your authentic voice right.

What makes you interesting?
What makes you different?
Why would people want to engage with you?

We only engage with and adopt information that is of relevance to us. Simple. The other question is are we information providers or are we providers of experiential play. Back in the day before social media became the marketing medium of choice experiential marketing was popular. Having been working [or studying] social media since the beginning of its climb to popularity I have been quite surprised about the lack of experiential marketing initiatives. I thought the two went hand in hand but as I said before traditional broadcast marketing has been the emergent winner of social media tactics. Is this about to change?

I was happily surprised when I was talking to David that he also thought that many social media tactics lacked engagement. The O Street team had set themselves a task of making social media engaging and actually making a real impact on the physical world. I wasn’t at this event but I know a few people who were and the reaction was positive.

Here is a quick press release from the team…
‘For a while now, we have been feeling the ‘social’ has been disappearing from ‘social media’. Everyday there seems to be a new way to connect with people online (pinterest and tout being two of our
recent favourites). However none seem to be increasing the amount of face–to–face, shoulder–to–shoulder camaraderie of the old fashioned version of socialising. So we started exploring how we could use social media technology to impact on a real–time, tangible, social setting. as the saying goes, ‘any excuse to have a party’. Named ‘o here’s to…’, we launched a live twitter campaign to celebrate people’s wishes and toasts for the new year. Coinciding with a party in our studio, for each tweet a dram of our national drink was raised then dutifully emptied (overseen by a qualified whisky ambassador). tweets were projected live at the event’

Here’s a video of the night …

People who were not at the event were tweeting in too and having a direct impact on what was happening in the physical space. The event was an experience for those who were there and also for those who were not. The event has also received quite a bit of attention and has now been nominated for a Scottish design award for the best item of self-promotion.

Obviously businesses can’t constantly run this type of event but it paves way for a new type of engagement which has lasting effects in the virtual and physical worlds. It is experience in its true form and is actually engagement.

The people who tweeted could see a direct change, an action, in the physical space. When we tweet a brand we don’t really see any direct impact, maybe we get a tweet back but increasingly we don’t.
I personally feel that the experiential aspects of social media have massive potential. While content curation is great for when we need good information sources, the internet and social media is both for information search and play. Consumers want to be involved in experiential marketing this was proven before social media and in this O Street case study.

Social media provides a much more manageable medium to facilitate experience which can be impacted by a global audience. Gamification has risen to popularity and in many of the research reports that are produced on social media we see that competitions are highly sought. Maybe consumers are not after the competition per se but the experiential aspects that normally surround social media based competitions.
Has anyone else run experiential marketing initiatives via social media? What’s your thoughts on creating more experience and less broadcast?

If you want to embed the video in your blog here is the html code from vimeo:

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