Fan Engagement: The Cornerstone of Your Social Media Strategy

Fan Engagement: The Cornerstone of Your Social Media Strategy

Engagement is a word routinely used by brands to describe actions they take on social media. The term is banded around so much it’s now being taken for granted that almost any social media post will engage with your audience. The reality is that, no matter how many followers see your post, only those who take further action are truly engaging with it. Creating a fan engagement strategy is therefore crucial for getting the most out of your followers.

Fans are central to any brand as the driving force for long term growth, but how can brands clearly define the way they should go about engaging with their fans and what would be the purpose for said engagement?

fan engagement

As a social media agency, we are defined by the activity that occurs between the brand and the fan.

Traditional advertising is broadcast-focused; a person flicking through a magazine or a carload of people listening to the radio. This makes it limited to those in the vicinity of the broadcast. Social media marketing is a far more interactive experience, with consumption between infinite digital networks, allowing for mass participation across hours and days, rather than minutes. This relies on engagement and allows brands to gather  accurate, real time information based on the reactions of fans.

So what defines fan engagement? It’s where people are individually connected with a topic, category or brand and is part of a topical micro-community.  This ‘connected activity’ can be split into 4 sub-categories:

  1. Contribution – where the fan creates their own content

  2. Collaboration – where fans participate in content creation with other fans or with the brand

  3. Influence – where fans are influential over other fans

  4. Advocacy – where fans adopt a sense of ownership and affinity

It is with a fan engagement strategy that we advance practices in social marketing where the focus in on awareness, reach and engagement, to where fans have grown with the brand and are very much a part of our marketing rather than merely the consumers. The objective at this stage is to enforce emotions and behaviours that drive actionable outcomes such as signups, transactions, downloads and purchases etc, with the long term goals being to have a loyal and retained user base.

What is key to remember is that fan engagement is not achieved from a singular post, but is a longer term journey. The graphic below illustrates this journey:


Any brand should have no problem ‘honestly’ identifying how loyal their fan base is and be able to determine what stage on this scale they are situated at. All brands know how loyal their audience is, even those brands that don’t believe in social media know what loyalty and retention looks like in terms of CTR, conversions and revenue. Many brands will have a number of loyal customers (stage 5), but the challenge is how do we adopt the behaviours of our few loyal customers in stage 5 into the new crop at stages 1-3 and encourage them to journey with us and not with rival competitor brands.

The real-time nature of social media means that brands can be at the heart of conversations amongst their fans and the most successful brands are those that take notice of what their fans are saying. This makes the audience feel more engaged, and allows brands to seem more humanised, creating a rapport through the jungle of social media and increasing the chance of a a fully loyal and retained base of fans.

The challenge is how do we adopt the behaviours of our few loyal customers in stage 5 into the new crop at stages 1-3 and encourage them to journey with us and not with rival competitor brands.

It is the challenge of brands and agencies to take a step back from the marketing tactics that they are so used to; the big TV ads, billboards, sponsorship deals and PPC spend and reflect on their long term vision vs their short term wants and needs.

It is about comfort zones and breaking free of restraints to open up a deeper and potentially more sustainable relationship with today’s highly informed audience.

You can only really grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new. Those brands that take risks and open their arms to their audience tend to be the ones that we write about, the ones we laugh about and laugh with and the ones that we tell our friends about.

It’s these brands that have begun to adopt fan engagement, maybe by accident, creating a viral whirlpool of engagement through a joint brand and fan effort, or by flipping the sentiment in the public domain with an unhappy customer so that they become a vocal advocate.

It’s these brands that have their eyes opening to how interconnected we all are and that the line between the brand and the fan is no longer there.

It’s brands like these that have reinvested that huge TV budget to be distributed among 20 YouTube influencers; sending them on a journey with smartphones, capturing unique content that will be watched by your target audience and will evoke an emotional connection.

It’s brands like these that are being followed by their competitors, with brand managers of the competing company incorporating like for like strategies, because it’s clearly working ‘for them’.

The only question that remains; which brand are you?

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