For brand engagement, stop questioning your audience

Social engagement is down 22% according to Syncapse. Maybe the veneer of social media is wearing thin, maybe we’ve had enough of flaming popular brands or maybe the content is no longer worth talking about.

Whatever the reasons, what is interesting is the fact that we have come to associate ‘engagement’ with conversations.

A cacophony of voices urge brands to use social media to start conversations with their customers.

It’s a case of ‘do it because you can’.

Few people challenge this instruction and in doing so, start their brand down a course of engaging in the most ridiculous “conversations”.

Brands check their bibles for any pretext upon which to strike up conversations.

We produce hair products, they observe, so let’s ask women how they feel about their hair.

We make glasses. So let’s try and get people to talk about poor eyesight.

Sometimes these conversations have the potential to unlock interesting, human stories (though rarely because to do so properly generally means allowing people more space than Facebook tends to encourage).

Mostly, however, they feel stretched, over-polite at best as customers contribute just to get at a deal.

Are these the conversations a customer really wants to have?

Or are they beginning to wonder whether they want their Facebook feed littered with references to 2 for 1 offers?

If you’ve ever wandered down a high street and avoided the clipboards then you will understand the issue currently facing social media now that it’s all becoming a bit ‘normal’.

Because thirty years ago, when clipboards were new, shoppers flocked to them in a rush to be questioned on calorie intakes, sexual preference and whether or not they thought fluoride toothpaste was a good idea.

Ok, maybe not.

But compare that to a crowd around a busker and you’ll see that being social isn’t about demanding something from a customer – even in return for marvellous coupons or the opportunity to look like a celebrity next to Cat Deeley.