Are we killing our customers with too much engagement?

too much engagement

By Neicole Crepeau, Contributing {grow} Columnist

Facebook is seeing a decline in use. Studies show that users are un-Liking business pages. Consumers are getting savvy and more jaded about businesses use of social media—and they’re responding negatively. The thing is, it’s our own fault. Do we seek too much engagement?

Social media consultants and bloggers have long urged companies to create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and start a conversation with their customers. So, lots of companies have done just that. The problem is, most customers don’t want a conversation with a company or its representatives.

Sure, there are exceptions. There are customers who are genuinely passionate about a restaurant, a hotel, a clothing line, or shoe company. Those customers are a minority, though.

It may be worth engaging that minority deeply, as brand advocates. But companies aren’t focusing on deeply engaging with the few people who deeply want to engage with them. Most companies either aren’t doing social media, or they are in a race to acquire as many fans and followers as possible and then get likes and comments from as many as possible.

As I noted in my recent post, If You Want to Engage Me, Make Me Look Good, the conversation approach ISN’T customer-centric. It’s the business, the marketer that wants to engage in conversation with the customer. Just as marketers want blog and newsletter subscribers, and want customer email addresses, they want Facebook fans. They want to be able to regularly contact and message leads and customers—even if they do it in a less promotional, more sociable manner.

Customers aren’t beating down the doors of businesses begging them, “engage with me, please!”

Customers want to engage with their friends. They want to engage with content that amuses, teaches, or inspires them. They may want to engage with their friends about said content.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that companies shouldn’t listen to customers and respond to them. Good companies have been listening to their customers for years, in the ways available at the time. Good companies will continue to monitor, respond, answer questions, address concerns, elicit suggestions, all through social media as well as other means.

It’s the inane and sometimes manipulative attempts to converse and engage people that I’m decrying. With all the competition for our attention, the flood of content and news and status updates, I think consumers increasingly resent attempts to draw their attention with questions, content, contests, and conversations that aren’t valuable, relevant, fun, or interesting. It’s just more noise.

We’ve created a monster, by telling every company that they NEED a Facebook page and Twitter account and that they need to converse and engage. I’m hoping we can slay that monster by taking a truly customer-centric approach.  I hope we begin to tell companies that they need to identify the specific consumers of value to them as a company, and then find a way to be OF SERVICE to those consumers. I hope companies will find ways to serve the customer’s goals online. Find ways to facilitate the conversations those consumers want to be having with their friends. Find ways to entertain and inspire them. Find ways to let consumers take the actions that help them personally or professionally and that enrich their online lives.

So many businesses now are out on the social web expending resources and money trying to get a conversation started on their page and blog. What if they were all spending the same resources and money trying to find valuable ways to serve consumers through their Facebook pages and blogs, ways to help consumers meet their own online goals and enrich their own relationships with one another.  If a company did that for me, I’d be a loyal fan and I’d be visiting their Facebook page more often.

Do you agree?

Neicole Crepeau is a partner in Coherent Interactive, which specializes in web, mobile, and social media design and implementation for small and mid-size businesses. You can read more of her original material at her blog, Coherent Social Media or onTwitter where she is @neicolec.


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  • Absolutely!!  The key here is that you need to create valuable content to HELP your customers.  Or just plain HELP your customers.  So many companies don’t focus on this and thus the fail rate.  If you put your customers first in all your decision making, you are a big step ahead of others.

  • I’m absolutely in agreement with you!

  • Neicole, I totally agree.  Companies that are just beginning to be involved in social media efforts tend to be severely focused on the metrics (likes, fans, retweets…) and oftentimes miss the main purpose they adopted social media in the first place.  I see in the (hopefully not too distant) future when the novelty of social media has worn off and is better understood, that companies will want to use it as a tool to build productive relationships.  

    Great companies know their clients well.  Making that the endgame of your social media efforts should be paramount.  

    Great post!

  • Claude Nougat

    Very interesting! Of course this applies to business and not directly to writers (I’m self-published and run my blog, so you could consider me a very small business!) But there’s much truth in all this and probably applies equally well to the book marketing business.

    For a long time, I’ve been wondering (and sometimes annoyed) at the way my fellow writers market their books. Most are convinced they have to have an FB presence and tweet like mad, things like “my book is now available here and here”. Well, who cares? Has anyone ever bought a book on the basis of a tweet? I know I haven’t. Indeed, I find “direct marketing” unbearable and I guess most people do.

    Trouble is: indirect marketing – the soft sell, or appearing not to sell at all – is damn hard. How do you drum up people’s interests? Okay, providing useful content. But useful to whom? And how?

  • As someone who just deleted her Facebook Business Page a couple of days ago, yes I agree.  I saw some interesting statistics last week (unfortunately I can’t remember where I saw them!) that showed the difference between what the Page owners are offering (interaction was their main objective) and what the customer wanted (basically, discounts and special offers!).  I think social media is a bandwagon most of us are guilty of jumping on, but you really need to sit down and see what’s working from a marketing point of view and – as you’ve said in your post – focus on your clients.

  • I agree that not every company needs to be actively engaged on Facebook and Twitter. I think companies who are and don’t need to be were naively trying to keep up with the times so their business looked up-to-date and so their image appeared to be centred around their customers.

    As you describe, this has probably had a negative effect on their customers and the company when not done ‘correctly’. The resources are better spent elsewhere, trying to take a truly customer-centric approach and address the actual marketing issues, rather then missing the strategy. This article fits in nicely with one I was just reading on spam tactics – by Mark Aaron Murnahan. 

    Good article and a nice read Neicole!

  • Yes, we are.  I agree that friends want to interact with friends, and they are tiring of bombardment from direct marketing and sales messages.  I believe businesses instantly lose credibility on Facebook when they make direct sales pitches.

  • Social media is one communication channel of many, isn’t it? companies that have not managed to engage with their customers through the more traditional channels (offline, email, events etc) won’t do well in social media either because customer centricity is the basic principle that they do not understand. I think SM will prevail and grow, facebook or not. but you have to be in it for the long run and know what you want out of it, and what you want your customer to get out of it (aka strategy). otherwise, better spend the resources elsewhere.

  • Great points Neicole! Customers have friends for social interaction, they engage with businesses to hopefully derive some sort of value for their lives. Your point is so on target, and I think it comes down to viewing social media as another tool with which to serve customers instead of as an end in and of itself.

  • Definitely agree. The more “engagement” we press on people, the more likely they are to ignore the message.

  • I tend to agree. (BTW I haven’t been party to the monster machine – don’t think anything is for EVERYONE except maybe water, oxygen, etc.) Once brands figured out they could talk back to consumers who ‘liked’ products just as a means of showing a little personality, creating a profile.. all bets were off. All this ‘conversation’ turned into push marketing, which as you say is pushing people in other directions, clicking ‘unlink’ buttons. Most of my social and non-social friends want to search, find their answers, get their deal; if there is a problem, they want to be able to find a human person who’s empowered to actually help them as quickly as possible via their preferred means of contact – which may mean email but really, means not hiding the phone number on subpage 24 of the websites. (And w/ cell phones, businesses can skimp out on the toll free line wonk wonk.) So yeah, moving things back to being focused on the customer, that’s certainly a step in the right direction. FWIW. 

  • Neicole, brilliant observations! My biggest concern
    about the Social Web has always been that as it becomes “commercial”, businesses
    will overdo it to the point where the “Geese that are laying our golden
    eggs” will fly away. Then, we have no more social media. Because without
    consumers talking on line, there are no valuable insights to understand.
    Perhaps the “killer app” for social media will be the equivalent of
    the “fast forward” button………

  • Ed Jenkins

    Right on point Neicole! 

  • Thanks, Adam!

  • I hope you’re right, Randy, that as companies become more familiar with social media that they will start to get it, and use it better.

  • LOL. That fast forward button could be the killer app for a lot of industries!

  • Absolutely I agree!

    I’ve gotten mocked a few times in my brief tenure here in the online  world because I often talk about how important engagement is. The assumption is that by “engagement” I mean, “Talk about your kitty with other people who want to hug every cat.”

    However, *breaking news* this is in fact not what I mean (At least not exactly).

    There are two big problems. First, folks in the world of Social Media define words like “engagement” differently, and hence conversations about engagement remind me of what the conversation was like when people were trying to build the Tower of Babel (yes, I was there).

    The second problem is that companies are jumping into Social Media/Social Media engagement without a plan. “Let’s have a contest” may drive traffic to your Facebook page (and like you say it may turn other folks off), but will it actually drive sales? Meh…not if you don’t plan for that facet of it.

    This is an important point and post. Hope lotsa people read it and absorb 🙂

  • Hi Nicole, I love that you pointed out how ‘commercialized’ facebook liking is becoming.  Observing my own consumer behaviors, I’m not at all interested in ‘liking’ most business pages.  Why?  Because most of them only ‘connect’ by sending out advertising messages… and frankly, I’ve had enough of that.  Great post,


  • Thanks, Davina. Isn’t it amazing how businesses still forget the simplest things like making it easy to find the phone number. I get really annoyed when they keep trying to direct me their forms or FAQs when I want  to actually talk on the phone to a real person. I understand the need to keep support costs down, but honestly, sometimes it’s like they are playing a shell game with their phone number!

  • business growth

    Facebook and other online communication can give ways to express each other’s feelings and people may not matter either its good or bad thoughts as long as they expresses that needs to express.

                                                       by:business growth

  • Nice post, Neicole. It’s a bit like companies calling unqualified prospects to leave messages so they can get their ‘left messages’ count up for social proof. Spammy and useless.Definitely agree targeting comes first.

  • I agree, it’s just one channel. And it’s not as different at social media experts sometimes make it out to be. A company that is customer-centric in it’s product design, it’s marketing, it’s support, etc. is going to do best in the long run. It’s amazing how hard it sometimes is though for businesses to be truly customer-centric. They often seem to think they are, but they are really thinking more about their goals and are too wrapped up in their own beliefs about their product and how customer’s perceive it.

  • Thanks for the pointer to Mark’s post, Stuart.

  • So, you deleted your page, huh? It sounds like you have a story to share there. Any plans to write about it?

  • Yes, indirect marketing is hard. Content marketing is certainly a good tool. But I think there are other ways, if you are keeping an eye on customer goals. I wrote about this in my blog post about making customers look good ( Providing a forum for customers to shine or provide their stories that related to your book, for example, may be one method.  It takes a lot more effort to figure out these kind of strategies, though.  I personally think that’s the next phase in the evolution of social media: going beyond just conversing on a Facebook page.

  • It’s interesting, I was just working on a similar post about content marketing.

    I still think every brand and publication needs to be where there audience is and, increasingly, that’s spread across a fragmented landscape. However, I agree with your post that we brands ask too much of customers. They want every customer to provide testimonials, join their online community, go on Facebook, follow on Twitter.

    The better model, I think, is to tout your customers rather than ask them to tout you. Write posts about the creative and insightful things your customers are doing. Exist in the background and emphasize your customers’ ingenuity rather than your product. The upside is they will share you with others, feel that you “get them”, and you’ll give other customers valuable knowledge.

    Great post!

  • I wrote a post on this same thing this morning. Yours is better (and has a way better conversation) so I’ll chime in here.

    I feel like we’re in an era of acquisition and we’re forgetting about retention.

    We’re obsessed with breadth and forget about depth.

    We’re in a marketing-manifest-destiny mode and our customers are suffering.

    I think the key – as always – is to focus on better customer service and improving the product. Not spending our focus evangelizing all the time. That will happen only if we earn it.

    Great post!

  • Solid article.  I think it has to do with the intent behind the engagement…

    “Click my Like Button Just For The Heck Of It” = empty intent, therefor empty results.


    “I hope you find value in this content…and if you would like, please find us on Facebook/Twitter/Whatever and you can get more/engage more/etc…” = real intent, therefor more real results.

    I know that is oversimplified, but IMO businesses need to focus more on “why” the customer is engaging rather than the tactic of engaging itself.

  • I think that is a great approach, Jesse!  Especially for B2B. It’s certainly the case that we should deeply engage with and encourage those of our customers who are real advocates and will do testimonials, etc. But that’s a really small part of the audience, normally. It’s unrealistic to expect most customers to spend their time doing that. I like the idea of promoting customers, though.

  • Love the “fast forward” app Steve (and of course the insightful comment), then we could also see the iPhone 10 before it comes out :)…or do I need the “Crystal Ball” app for that?

  • The reason why companies are invading the social sphere is that they have lost that consumer-centric approach that hold businesses together. Instead, they’re trying to find ways to compensate for that by “engaging” consumers in conversation. There is a reason why mediocrity in services is so widely expected, why consumers are increasingly jaded, and why loyalty is a far-cry from what it was.

    So, you are right. But you’re also wrong. It’s the fault of those who suggest engaging consumers in the social sphere (which works better with small businesses and start-ups) and those businesses who need to get in on the game. It’s a compensation tactic. They wouldn’t need to do it if they would focus on the consumer in their business.

    Discussions on their brand, products and entire business would invade the social sphere if they would focus on the consumers in their business. They don’t need to engage in this world.

    An addendum: I do think small businesses need to engage with their consumers. They have a smaller market and need to spark interest.

  • True. The “unlike” is an indication that you aren’t meeting your customer’s needs through the content you’re sharing, after you get that Like.

  • Juanjose32

    This is so true. 
    Everytime I would “like” a buisness on a blog, I would then begin receiveing useless updates and notifications. From then on I would remove them from my pages.
    Brilliant article. Thank you

  • This is a timely topic for me Neicole.  I am about to launch a business FB page and you certainly gave me a few additional questions to ponder.  Thanks 

  • I agree. I find I Like very few pages…

  • That’s an interesting point, Shad. You may be right that if these larger businesses were engaging their customers period, the engagement would naturally spread to the social area. Although I do think there are better ways they can proactively engage or support customers in the social areas, as well.

  • I really liked your post, too. ( I like the idea of focusing on retention and the right audience, versus every audience.

  • Oh, my goodness. I didn’t even know about that one. Yuck!

  • You are such a riot, Marjorie!!  I love you, but no, I don’t want to talk about your kitty, either.

  • Anonymous

    I 100% agree Laurinda. Give them content of value that solves their needs.

    Ironically, I’ve been thinking about this topic quite often lately. I recently heard a quote that basically stated that there are two types of social media relationships. Those that make friends, and those that make money. I have to agree.  Not that I believe it all revolves around the almighty dollar, but perhaps businesses have taken the friendship approach, instead of the business relationship approach. 

    Just a thought… 🙂

  • I’ll repeat my suggestion, as radical as it may seem. In marketing circles, it has gotten me close to burned at the stake. Build your community in such a way that your customers market among themselves. In fact, build an ecosystem where they can actually create and share content relevant to their experiences, and why they buy what they do. Relinquish control, since by and large, marketers don’t really control much at all. The reality, of course, is that we are living in the greatest “land grab” in history for advertising dollars, and it has very, very little to do with customers wants, needs, or preferences. Folks like Doc Searls and Dave Winer nailed it so much more eloquently and decisively than me in their recent posts. Hamsters, indeed. 

  • Bridie Jenner

    Hi Neicole, yes, I blogged about it a couple of days ago.

  • it will improve your business? 🙂

  • Um, I love you, Margie. Seriously. You rock my socks off! Great comment. 🙂

  • This is me standing up applauding, Neicole! Love this post. Right on. I think @MargieClayman:disqus had it right – people tend to get engagement wrong. It’s not about manipulating people to “like” your page or comment on your post. Here’s a shocker – you have to CARE. And you have to mean it. If it’s all a ploy to drive meaningless numbers, then forget it. It won’t get you anywhere. It’s about truly caring about your customers and developing meaningful relationships. Always has been, always will be.

  • Aw, thanks, Clickster. Right back at ya!!! 🙂

    Aw man, Schaefer is gonna be so ticked that we’re girling up his blog…. 😀

  • Anonymous

    I’m not usually one to engage with a blog post, but I couldn’t resist saying “Bravo” to Neicole. The engagement metric is 100% self-serving, but ultimately it’s also futile. We can get so busy encouraging mindless online conversations that we fail to do the hard work of constantly improving our core product or service — we fail to “ship,” in the words of Seth Godin.I dropped Facebook because I found it to be a huge time-suck that added zero value to my clients. Freed from the pressure to build a “community,” I have more time to focus on writing high-quality blog posts that offer actionable advice on creating a compelling business biography. I don’t particularly care if readers engage at the end of a post — I don’t really have time for that, anyway.But I DO love it, every now and then, when someone finds enough value that they pick up the phone to discuss a more permanent relationship. In other words, I’m not looking for lots of endless engagements — just a few “marriages.”– Robert

  • It’s a year late but so validated now that mainstream media has finally noticed Facebook’s decline (or lack of use) that I have been crowing about forever. I also tell people to spend a day noticing every brand in their life. All of whom are waiting to b talked too via social media. How many do you want to talk to today? 1? 2? 5? which when divided by the number of total brands equals zero when rounded.

  • Love this article and this topic. It may be too simplistic but, until a business truly understands its customers, they shouldn’t really do ANY marketing. You have to know your audience–what they like, how they buy, when they buy, WHY they buy, where they are, etc.  Then and only then can you really devise a strategy to engage them ON THEIR TERMS. For me, that’s what marketing really is. Facebook, twitter, foursquare may not be the best medium for every business. And their online strategies SHOULD be very different because their customer bases are very different. If you fully understand your target audience then devising a strategic approach to engage them (at the level they want to be engaged) will much easier.

  • Lauri Harrison

    I think engagement is important to both companies and consumers.  For the first time, it is easier than ever to create a 2-way dialogue, which is extremely valuable to both parties.  Delighting customers is not the norm in business today.  Just scour the twitterverse and facebook for consumers complaining about xyz product or service.  For the companies that are listening, they can turn a negative experience around by responding to rectify the situation.  I know that for brands that I have chosen to write-off due to a bad experience, if they reached out to me to resolve the issue, I didn’t walk away as a consumer.  Engagement is more than “liking” a Facebook page or getting people to follow you on Twitter.  It’s about using social media as a tool to listen and respond  to what your customers are saying.  It’s Marketing 101 in my opinion.  An organization exists to provide value to the customer (solve a problem, make their life easier, etc.).  Then continue to build long-term profitable relationships with customers.  To me, you can’t accomplish those 2 things without a 2-way dialogue. 

  • I’m absolutely in agreement with you on customer support. When a customer has a question or a problem, companies should be able to respond and have a dialog via any channel. For me, the issue is more about marketing. A 2-way dialogue is great if that’s what customers want. But the fact is that most customers really don’t want to dialogue with the businesses whose products they buy, or might buy. There is a small percentage that do. But the majority don’t and most don’t want to do it the majority of the time. And I think they are getting sick of every Tom, Dick, and Harry business trying to start a conversation with them. 

  • I’m very much in agreement with you, Jess. Audience research is first. And now, that research takes a bit of a different form: really looking at online locations, behaviors in those locations, the consumer’s goals for being online, etc. But knowing your audience is the first step in a customer-centric approach (well, identifying who your audience is and then getting to know them) and essential to good marketing.

  • How many people writing blog comments read prior comments before writing their own? If they had read other comments, they most likely would have been inspired to click the REPLY or LIKE buttons. Few do. The majority of blog article readers answer the concluding question with their own answers and then click away.

  • Rayna Fagen

    Neicole, this is such a good topic, we may need a part two.  I agree with you that ‘many of us’ are killing customers with engagement. But like any fast growing online trend or activity, there always seems to be a ‘gold rush’ mentality of those that leap before having a strategy or clear thought of what they are trying to accomplish.  I’ve worked with a number of companies that didn’t take time to consider what their customers want or need in social outreach activites. It was another channel to ‘push’ message. They certainly didn’t place an importance on first considering whether they were a social organization and what they needed to do to become one.  So like many other digital activities before, there will be a shake out, some will regroup and try again in a more thoughtful manner, and the industry will hopefully embrace standards that help dilute the influence of ‘the monsters’ that had companies leaping before they looked.

  • That is a such a great idea, to ask yourself, “How many companies do I want to engage with today?” I think my answer would be zero, most days.

  • Not all “social media consultants” are equal. We encourage our clients to identify where their customers are already hanging out, and go interact with them there in a non-hard-sell manner. If I want to interact with Dell, I don’t want to figure out where I should go to do so, I’ll just tweet / blog / whatever. If Dell are smart, they’ll spot me and come talk to me where I feel comfortable. 

  • Thanks, Robert! You are the second person to mention that they dropped their Facebook page because it took too much time and didn’t provide enough value. I wonder if this is the beginning of a trend…

  • Agreed. And caring drives us to build better products, provide better service, better support, and do better marketing.

  • I am sooooo in agreement with you, Marty!! That’s a strategy that I have also promoted in my articles and talks. I’ll check out the posts you link to. Two recent ones of mine on this topic are and Creating a self-sustaining community where users contribute the content in a way that is valuable to them and others, and that promotes your business–could it get any better than that?

  • You’re welcome, Jeff. You might want to check out some posts on my blog as you think through strategy. Specifically, What is a Social Offer (, these two on making your customers look good ( and and this one on understanding your customers’ online personalities ( Hope you find them helpful!

  • I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff,

  • In an online world simply saturated — no — more than that — dripping with urgent advice to engage and then more advice on HOW to engage, this article is so refreshing.  

    It helps to take a step back, refocus, and realize, your page doesn’t have to appeal to every person on Facebook, nor would that even benefit your company.  Your company’s social media presence should appeal to, help, assist, and serve exactly those people who are or will be your customers.  High numbers of raw “likes” does not mean you are attracting, assisting, and converting those numbers into happy, satisfied customers.So now I’m off to go make a much more focused Social Media Plan!

  • guest

    That would require reading!  And then replying (like I’m doing)!  That’s almost like work, and besides that, people enjoy making their own statements (like I did!)

  • Conceptspd

    I don’t think I’ve ever talked “to” a brand/company.  An individual, yes (such as an individual photographer), but not to Nike, for example.  About them, perhaps, but not to them.

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t engagement imply interaction?  A ‘conversation’ where a brand just pushes content at its customers is not interactive or engaging.  I agree that not all social media efforts are engaging or meaningful to customers.  However, if a company is really listening to its customers, they can create a content strategy that is engaging and helpful, thus fulfilling the promise of social media.

  • This is a very valid point. When I started my blog, I was disheartened. There was no conversation. Comments were simply a string of observations.  But over time, something more meaningful DID happen. People from the blog started connecting with each other and forming business connections that started on the blog. Commenters wold call me. I have acquired some fo my best friends, customers and partners from the blog. There is a lot of engagement that takes place in other places like email and phone calls.

    So my opinion has changed. Yes, comments are often linear and disconnected, but over time, there has been powerful influence, connection and engagment that has occurred here. I’ve changed my mind about it.  Thanks for the very thought-provoking question Ari!

  • I have a real relationship with one brand on Twitter and Facebook which is Chobani. I love Chobani. I talk with a few others. I have relationships representing a Brand with a bunch of customers on Twitter and Facebook but as a % of customers it’s very low. But in essence it is a people to people platform. We don’t talk with Brands we talk with individuals at the brands who if we like its a good thing.

    But many people get on twitter and call out a brand when happy or pissed yet never talk with them again or not for months. But whoopee. LOL I think it just makes the business/brand more accessible for things that in the past we would never of felt a need to relay. Who would call a business and say good job or bad job except under exceptional circumstances. Often we simmer upset or we don’t share the praise.

  • This is a great topic with lots of good comments.  Listening and then engaging with those who need it makes more sense to me.  If a company responds (engages) and helps me through a problem with their service/product, I am much more likely to “like” them.  I wouldn’t randomly like a brand, otherwise.  The main problem is so many companies throw up information and forget to listen to customer needs, as you state. 

  • Speaking as a customer, I like companies that are engaging, meaning ones that are conversing, not simply shouting.

    Make me look good or make me feel good, and I’ll talk the ears off a company and tell all my friends.

    I wrote about it here:

  • Pingback: Customer Engagement: Rules to Live By | The Fosbury Flop()

  • I have been unliking pages on FB recently because I am being overtly marketed to way more than I would like, especially with content that I am not very interested in reading. I have kept the pages that provide content that I want to see. The other thing is that when I initially “liked” pages, it wasn’t clear to me that I was signing up to be marketed to so much as I was indicating that I am a fan or otherwise like a product or company. Now, my FB is increasingly being overrun by people/companies who spend all their time online trying to sell me something. The irony is that it makes me less interested in “buying.” It’s just not the reason why I joined FB. In a way, it feels like a violation of my personal space. 

  • But apart from marketing the brand and an assumed increase in brand loyalty, what is the benefit of companies being discussed or engaged with consumers in the social arena. I’m concerned about the implication that “it only counts when it goes social or viral”. I suspect that many companies are already doing very well without all of this social engagement or even without investing a lot of resources in talking to their customers online. Their core products and services need to be good, period. I can buy floors from a flooring company, but that doesn’t mean I want to engage with that company online. And even if I engage with said flooring company online, I have no interest in being deeply connected with them. I wouldn’t become some sort of brand ambassador and I don’t know many people who would. That’s just odd… to me, at least. 

  • I would echo Reyhan’s comment…today I unliked and hid several fan pages for just the same reason. It pains me because I used to LOVE Facebook and now it’s this huge commercial all day long.

    On the flip side of that, I have my own Fan Page with a small but growing base (quality not quantity!) and it’s very difficult to “engage” with them because 1) the highly valuable and helpful content I’m sharing doesn’t show up in their news stream; and 2) only 1-2% of those who do see it will ever engage/share.

    This has troubled me for the last few months as I’ve recently rebranded and basically started over in another town. I used to be the big fish in the small pond, but now…well, the Internet is a freekin ocean!

    I’m interested to see how this all plays out. Yes – we’ve all collectively created a monster by urging every biz to get themselves on FB/Twitter/et al. I’m just as guilty as the rest of you; but resolved to do more one-on-one helping.

  • It’s true, nothing builds loyalty better than lending a helping hand when someone has a problem they need solved!

  • I think we’ve gotten locked into the idea that the type of correct type of interaction in social media is “conversing” such as commenting. While I certainly think that companies should converse with customers who want to do that, I just don’t think that most customers do want that. So, we need more sophisticated and customer-centric methods of interaction.

  • LOL. Good luck with your planning!

  • I agree with you. I’ve written a post on Mark’s blog here about that topic, as well, Facebook may be the worst place to engage ( It discusses Razorfish’s Liminal study, which suggests that smaller forums and locations may be better places to engage, by and large.  

  • I think you are exactly right. This is just part of the evolution of social media “marketing” and I think better best practices will develop. I do worry about the possible backlash from this first gold rush, though. Don’t you?

  • Jonathansalembaskin

    Nobody wakes up in the morning wishing they had a closer relationship with their toothpaste brand, nor do they wish they got more marketing…whether we call it engagement, content, or entertainment. The premises otherwise never made sense and now that they’re not delivering any sales or profit results, maybe brands’ll get back to focusing on what makes them truly different, useful, and sustainable.

  • Great point, I guess I’ve proved I do!

    I’ve often left comments and then read previous comments that more or less say exactly the same. 

    It’s worse and very embarrassing when the same words or phrases are used because you look so unoriginal & thick!

    Nice comment Arzi and just maybe, you’ve save a whole lot of embarrassment to a whole lot of people!

    I would like to add that over time I have come to cherish the comments people leave on my blog and they really do help bloggers develop and improve, therefore I do like as many opinions as possible and clicks wouldn’t have quite the same effect. One great comment with 20 clicks doesn’t quite provide the same impact or encouragement. 

    I liked the article too BTW!  It raised some good points and there is too much noise and people don’t have enough time! 

    All the very best guys, Peter

  • Great point, I guess I’ve proved I do!

    I’ve often left comments and then read previous comments that more or less say exactly the same. 

    It’s worse and very embarrassing when the same words or phrases are used because you look so unoriginal & thick!

    Nice comment Arzi and just maybe, you’ve save a whole lot of embarrassment to a whole lot of people!

    I would like to add that over time I have come to cherish the comments people leave on my blog and they really do help bloggers develop and improve, therefore I do like as many opinions as possible and clicks wouldn’t have quite the same effect. One great comment with 20 clicks doesn’t quite provide the same impact or encouragement. 

    I liked the article too BTW!  It raised some good points and there is too much noise and people don’t have enough time! 

    All the very best guys, Peter

  • I guess I give people grace in this regard. If I came on to my own blog and saw 80 comments I probably wouldn;t read them all to provide unique perspective. I recognize that people have limited time and I appreciate it when they leave a comment even if the sentiment is duplicated. a) it is a “vote” for that sentiment and b) it is an honor to have them care enough to spend their time to provide their voice to the discussion. Every comment is a gift. Thanks for your perspective on this!

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  • nwleary

    Very thought-provoking.  With the frenzied pace that is today’s world, as business owners we need to be judicious about making demands on customers, as opposed to serving them. In the 2-3 seconds that a customer interfaces with us, we must present convincing evidence that is our goal to help solve their concerns.

  • First I will admit Ari that I did not read all 82 comments before posting this one.

    I like to use the example of @DSWshoelovers.  I follow them for one reason…Free Shoe Friday.  During the week they often post reviews of shoes (pretty much push marketing and that’s ok by me…I don’t care).  They do always reply when you mention them.  But personally I don’t want to “engage” with them.  I don’t really want them to post thought provoking articles about the foot and shoe construction.  What I want from them are free shoes on Fridays.  I am already a loyal customer.  When I go inside their store I giggle to myself with giddy excitement.  But on social media…just let me try to win a pair of “free shoes”.

  • I strongly agree.  Most people go online to connect with family and friends, and for entertainment.  Others, are seeking a solution to their problems.  Companies need to find the people who need and want their products and services to solve such problems.  There’s a lot of competence out there, but people will prefer those brands that connect with them through useful and valuable content.

  • urvin thusu

    Social media platforms are emerging day in day out, wonder years ago when this wave had not struck  how companies manged to engage customers …..Point is its the need of the hour though competitive  using these effective platforms customers requirements should be properly served to make them your genuine fan .
    (the second half of this comment was edited to remove blatant advertising)

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  • Well, sometimes I wake up in the morning wishing for a closer relationship with my toothpaste, and I make one. But the brand, no.

  • Has anyone cited any data in this thread? Food for thought from eMarketer: Consumers Embrace Social Media for Brand Feedback:

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  • Recently I have been actually going through my personal Twitter feed and removing organizations. I want real people to interact with. -Sarah

  • Well, your motivations are the same ones as most consumers, according to the studies. Most people are mainly interested in “engaging” with brands to get discounts or find out about specials–or maybe those contest where you can get something free. We’re pretty predictable, huh?

  • And there clearly is a small minority of people like you. I think it’s critical for companies to engage people like you. But since that’s a minority, the strategy probably shouldn’t be built around it.

  • I think that there is a huge misunderstanding of what engagement really is. What I’ve observed most companies doing isn’t engagement it’s having a conversation. Very few companies actually are reaching out and trying to make meaningful connections.

  • I don’t think it’s people not engaging; I think it’s people not willing to have a conversation. Comment threads rarely ever get to the stage where people engage, and make meaningful connections. Mark, gives a good example below of how people have engaged on his blog. 

    What companies need to do is stop calling their strategy engagement and start calling it communicating. Rarely do companies actually engage, most of them are just communicating with their consumers. Engagement is much deeper though, it creates a connection, a bond. Neicole is right though, most people don’t want that sort of connection with brands. Maybe only a few close ones. 

  • Thank you for such a great point of view Neicole, many can learn from the balance you bring to the debate. For me it has to do with time as well, there are so many channels and networks [Welcome Google+], and absolutely no curation guidance. Have to admit I haven’t read all your other posts and comments yet but I would be interested to know which 3 facebook business pages you visit more often than others and why? 🙂

  • I haven’t dropped my Facebook page but I don’t really see the value of it myself. I have gotten all my clients off LinkedIn. Maybe that’s because I am a B2B copywriter.

    I guess Facebook pages will have value in many niches but they are definitely not going to be suitable for everyone

  • You make a very good point Reyhan. If you didn’t get good service at a restaurant you would probably not go back there, irrespective of the number of likes its Facebook page has.

  • Brand loyalty is like respect. It can’t be bought- it has to be earned as it always was, by making a great product and ensuring that it delivers the goods.

  • I’ve always felt the same way, and I’ve actually turned down a lot of clients due to their business style and the fact that I knew social media engagement would be much lower than what they were expecting.

  • Lgrubb

    Hi Neicole, great article, it’s something I have been mulling over for a while now. I get annoyed when my friends clog up my feeds with junk like FB games etc so I would be plenty irritated if companies started to do the same. My question for you is what would you class as a meaningful interaction, one that would benefit them just because one wanted to help not to sell? What specific activity would make you sit up and say “hey that was a deep and meaningful interaction”?

  • no worries!

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  • Very insightful post. It turns the pundits PUSH marketing under the guise of Social media marketing on their heads. Thius is truly customer centric and sustainable for the company. If the compnay and customer goals aire in fact one this is a sustainble growth stragey.

  • I just set up a Facebook page for one of my clients. It’s a Plumbing Contractor and I resisted setting up a page for many weeks, but that’s what he wanted. So I compromised. I set up Justin Dorsey Plumbing presents Oh, remember when… A Facebook page that is geared towards reminiscing. Bringing back thoughts of Stretch Armstrong or Tang orange drink. I include a photo on every post. I believe it’s a unique approach designed to entice the audience. He likes it, despite that we are at only 55 fans.

  • Agreed! 
    There’s truly no use in getting a Twitter account or Facebook page unless there is a reason, some exigence for it. With nothing to write about, the so-called “engagement” becomes mere web clutter. It’s that clutter that bothers the SM users and so the “Spring cleaning” of Liked pages occurs. 

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  • Anonymous

    Completely agree. Customers don’t necessarily want “engagement” with a company. Perhaps they want to be recognized as someone valuable (if they are). Maybe they just hope the company knows they are a customer. Perhaps they just want a coupon (many, many new social media followers and fans are seeking just that).

    Companies are using social media in a way that is convenient for them, rather than in a way that serves their customers’ needs. Customers don’t all have time to “engage” (like many blog readers and responders don’t, to the points below). However, when they do want to talk to companies online, they want to be heard and responded to.

    There is such an opportunity for social media to be used to really understand customers and their needs, then be used to help deliver what customers are looking for (which will vary). Few companies are using social media today in a manner that is different from how they use their other marketing tools – solely for their own benefit.

    I encourage companies to put themselves in the shoes of their customers and think Relationship (or simply Convenience) when they “engage” their customers in these channels.

    Great post, Neicole. You rock!

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  • Martin Soler

    “most customers don’t want a conversation” that’s quite a statement. I don’t think I can agree with that. While companies should definitely work out how to serve their customers, they will find out how to do that by conversing with the customers. 

  • Christine B. Whittemore

    Neicole, great points! I think it’s why I dislike campaigns and contests that focus on building followers & fans so much. The ugly truth is that it’s a lot less glamorous [yet a lot more beneficial] to focus on truly listening, figuring out what works and doesn’t work and “trying to find valuable ways to serve consumers through their Facebook pages and blogs, ways to help consumers meet their own online goals and enrich their own relationships with one another” as you state.

    Thank you!

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  • What a great point. I was thinking this article was going to demean the potential of social media, but rather you pointed out how it can actually be useful, and where lines should be drawn. Thanks for the reality check.

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  • Garrettpace591

    Does anybody else see the irony of all of the Google +, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter buttons at the top of the page?

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  • I am not surprised that people are drifting away from Facebook. It’s hugely irritating. I may well get rid of it myself in 2012 as I find no value in it whatsoever.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much, Neicole, for the whole discussion. After all the great comments and angles I won’t add more analysis but I would like to explain the effect it had on me last night. This discussion got my mind racing, so I took to pen and paper by the light of my iPhone (yes, literally). I wanted to map out the typical customer life-cycle from the customer perspective, using verbs that expressed their focus rather than the business and marketing focus. There are many forms of engagement and communication yet I had never tried to discern between them carefully, so I was curious where they would fall on my map. To my surprise, I used both as customer-focused verbs in the POST sale stages but not in PRE sale stages. With my customer hat on, it seems that I engage meaningfully with vendors that use the follow-up period to exceed expectations. And I only  attribute communication to situations where I am a repeat customer, am in a position to recommend, etc. Yes, with my marketing hat on I do use the term ‘engage’ to describe pre sale activity, yet on this map the words there included: investigate, learn, meet and familiarize. Maybe I don’t warm up as easily as the average customer? Or maybe I can better serve clients by focusing them more on their post sale activities. Needs further exploration and a blog post. Thanks for the spark!

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  • I agree completely.
    I think that the main problem lies withing the marketing agencies.
    They all scream “social media” as in “have to be there” but with not too much attention into the opportunity of also serving the customer through these channels.

    Any engagment for the sake of data collection, which gives no values to the customer will at the end look bad, feel bad and is just isn’t right.

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  • Anne T Stone

    two eyes to read, 10 fingers to type, two hands to pick up the phone, one mouth to talk, two ears to listen … did anyone else remember this is only the 23rd birthday of the Internet? as long as we remember the world is the world not the WWW, the future is a much more interesting place…Ari! I didn’t even realize I was responding to Mark’s comment on your comment! Don’t we have a phone call planned soon (as in November 2013)? (gee whiz.. I can’t believe this was a response to a post from 2 years ago and still seems relevant).

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