Have Some Faith (in engagement marketing)


Last week’s buzz in my many marketing newsletters was that Facebook is going to change the way it allows ads to show up on personal feeds. Last week is a century ago in Internet time but never mind.  Have some faith.

Supposedly there will be less ads. This doesn’t make the people who make their money from this source too happy. But Zuckerberg says ads have taken over so that we can’t connect with our friends and family as was originally intended. Connecting is what it’s all about.

Very true, although I think eating dinner together as a way of connecting is more fun. But Zuckerberg is right, there is a lot of online clutter and too much clicking and clucking. Much of the Internet reminds me of those late night TV furniture ads of the seventies, all frantic and noisy. This is not to say shouting and fast talking doesn’t work because a lot those plaid couches got sold (which are now in the free section on Craigslist). But is that all that social media can be?

Don’t worry says one marketing source, everything will continue as we know because it’s billions and billions in revenue for Facebook and who is going to turn that down? Probably true, but wouldn’t it be extraordinary if Facebook did decide that they already give a great return to their investors? Leading the way in sustainable capitalism would really be leading. However, while we wait to see if FB follows through, professional communicators are told to try some engagement marketing.

Well, duh.

Ideally, engagement marketing just means cultivating your consumers. The thing we do when we talk to them, only this is the online version. This kind of marketing is the storytelling kind. You tell your followers stuff and they tell you stuff. It’s like water cooler talk only better because it’s probably not about the best disposable diaper (BTW, there isn’t one; these things create huge waste which takes a zillion years to break down). It is in our nature to trade stories.

Shouldn’t a good business FB feed be like reading a favourite magazine with well selected, focused information so you get a little of this and a little of that? Some you choose, some you don’t but overall it delivers something you believe in? Sadly, this isn’t the norm and here are a few reasons:

It’s Hard to Measure

Engagement marketing is slow, which means the data and the buying activity won’t correlate for awhile. I worked in social media when it was new to grocery stores. No one wanted it because there wasn’t a way to measure the ROI. But once there were numbers, there was buy-in. It didn’t matter that there was no reference point for the numerical information. Nor did it matter that the meaning of the data kept changing to keep pace with the ever changing algorithms. Just having numbers was familiar and that meant embraceable.

Creating and Managing Social Media is an Entry Level Position and Low Paying

Why? The art of persuasion is just that, an art. Ad agencies don’t give their important accounts to newbies so why is an employee inexperienced in customer communications trying to make essential connections with customers?

We’ve Become Impatient

The internet is fast and that same breakneck speed has spilled over into everything. Ever watch someone at a controlled crosswalk frantically, anxiously pressing the walk button even though it’s on a timer? Maybe one day we’ll think at the Internet’s pace but right now people’s minds don’t and people are the customers.

Women Already Do it but it’s Overlooked

We are the largest buyers of consumer products. Everyone laughs at that graphic of how a woman shops versus a man, but here’s what’s happening: women contemplate, touch, verify, and absorb. If we are convinced – and convincing is the part ad agencies and engagement marketing focus on – we will buy. And then we decide if we like it. Whatever our verdict, we share it – online on and in person. We love this part. It’s not vacuous and mindless, it’s information sharing. It’s engagement marketing!

My professional and personal self rejoices at the idea of having less ads on my personal Facebook feed. I write digital content for business and I want to engage with customers. I like building relationships and online communities. I like hearing what consumers have to say. And they like being heard. No, they love it. Numbers are only a part of the equation. For the rest, we need to play the long game, which means having faith in something that can’t immediately be quantified.