The Recipe For Engagement Success

Today's post is by Jason Falls, CEO of Social Media Explorer and author of No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing. Register for Spredfast's upcoming Spruce up Your Social webinar on May 15th to hear Jason talk about Creating and Using Great Social Content.

The challenge most social media practitioners face in terms of their content efforts in today's social media world is concocting the perfect balance of true engagement -- posts that are audience-centric and conversational -- and business drivers -- posts that lead an audience to calls to action that help the company quantify success from their social media channels. Granted, there are those companies who use social media marketing for awareness, customer retention or service or other strategic purposes that aren't primarily focused on the bottom line, but those are few and far between in our what's-my-ROI driven world.

The answer is an enigma of sorts. There's no formula, regardless of what the gurus and experts say. One in 10 can be about you? One in eight? One in five? No one knows unless or until you implement complex testing of the variables to see what your own audience will tolerate. Even companies that complete that step and decide on one-in-whatever quickly find that audiences change and with them, so do the thresholds of me versus you content.

Sadly, it doesn't seem that even the top social brands have paid attention to the anecdotal recommendations of the guru set. I recently set up filtered circles and lists of the top 20 or so consumer brands according to the Dachis Group's Social Business Index on Google+, Facebook and Twitter. Scrolling down through each stream, my analysis of the posts can be summed up as follows:

"Me, me, me, me, me, support our charity, me, me, me, me, me, me, me."

Through about 80 or so posts, I found three that I thought, "Cool! That's pretty interesting for the audience." Congratulations to Coke, Ford Trucks and Sony for breaking through the noise of self-promotion with something decent.

But there has to be a balance if companies are going to leverage social media for bottom-line effecting business metrics. Ford Truck's post, asking who was going to win the World Series as baseball's opening day commenced, needs to be accompanied by product information or other incentives for the audience to actually want to buy a Ford Truck or the stream becomes less social media marketing and more community service. If most companies treat social media as the latter, guess what gets cut come budget time?

So how do we know how much "me" is too much? Unfortunately, the answer is (as it often is), "It depends."

Ask yourself a couple of questions to level-set the expectations:

  • Why is our audience following us here in the first place?
  • What did we promise them when we asked them to like, follow or fan us here?
  • What business reason are we using this platform or channel for?
  • Do we have other, more effective, channels for other business functions at play?


If your audience followed you because you promised them a weekly coupon, then they're an audience that is there for the appeal of the deal. You can be more commercially oriented, if not totally deal driven. If you're using the platform for customer service, and measuring customer service metrics through it (issued resolved, cost savings from diverting call center activity, etc.), then maybe smacking the audience in the face with "buy my stuff" posts isn't a good ideas. If you have the automated deal or coupon feed on Twitter or a special email list, remind your fans of those channels for deals and focus on more true engagement around product feedback, fun uses of the product and the like.

Still unclear about the proper mix? Ask your audience. A really engaging post might be, "We've got the opportunity to share deals and coupons with you here. Is that something you'd be interested in? Should we focus more on sharing fun tips and tricks? How do you want us to use this channel to make your experience with us better?"

And then you can, of course, test. Go two weeks with a 10:1 ratio of "conversation" or "engagement" oriented posts to calls-to-action. Measure the click throughs, comments, Likes and so on. Then go two weeks with a 5:1 ratio to see if the results change. If they don't, dial it in to a 2:1 ratio and see what happens. Read and react based on your audience's activity. But don't assume the ratio you land on is always the rule. Remember you're measuring human reaction. Humans are fickle and change their minds and attitudes daily. I'd suggest repeating the ratio test every 3-4 months until you get comfortable with a pace that works for your audience.

As much as measurement and quantification can give you a good idea of how often you can mix the "buy now" posts with the "how are you" ones, I'm still a big fan of using simple logic. Look at your last 30 posts on a given channel. Would you want to see those pieces of content in your stream? Would your not-so-social-media-savvy friend? Put yourself in the mindset of your audience and just do a gut-check. "Is this too noisy? Too promotional? Is it interesting?" Just asking those questions can help you better understand where your recipe for success produces the best taste.'s picture

Courtney Doman

Courtney is the Content Marketing Manager at Spredfast. She focuses on sharing smart social ideas and insights to transform the way companies connect with consumers. Courtney is a passionate football fan (supporting Arsenal and the USMNT), curious traveller, and ambitious home cook.