Today more than ever, one of the most critical metrics for any brand to think about measuring when it comes to its social media activities is engagement. It’s the one metric that lets customers know they care enough to “like” you, re-tweet you, “@” you, share you or comment on what’s been posted on your page. From a return on investment (ROI) perspective, engagement is also the one metric that helps you work toward scalability and greater reach. If you have one million fans following you, that’s good. But what you really want is ten million or a hundred million unless of course you work in the business to business space where the right “thousand” might suffice.

To help illustrate this point, it’s worth highlighting a key piece of functionality from the leading social network, Facebook (900 million members). When someone “likes” a brand on Facebook, most people tend to only see the brand in their own timeline. In fact, only 3 – 7.5 percent of Facebook members actually see to a brand’s updates at any given time. More importantly, the only way that the friends of a brand’s fans see their updates is if the brand can get its fans to “engage” with it. That means they need to like a post, share a post or comment on a post. Only then does it make its way out into the broader Facebook stream. If the average fan has 130 followers, that now takes that “one million” fans we talked about earlier and makes it 130 million potential eyeballs. That’s were the real action is.

So how does a brand go about creating engagement? As an agency that helps a number of Fortune500 companies with their engagement strategies, WCG has a few best practices up its sleeve but I thought it might be more valuable from your to hear from some of our customers (and friends of WCG) directly. Below you will find tips from the folks responsible for shaping social media at Intuit, Intel, SAP, Michaels Stores and H&R Block.

  • Adrian Parker, Social, Mobile & Emerging Media, Intuit – Answer the obvious. Remember that many customers are online because they are actively seeking information so build your engagement model around the “bread crumbs” that are likely to lead to your brand, product or service. At Intuit, we purposely push ourselves to not only think outside in from the customer’s perspective, but also think end-to-end across the entire experience. We’re all in the service industry.
  • Ekaterina Walter, Intel Social Media Center of Excellence – Welcome negative comments! They are not as scary as you think. As a matter of fact, they are a golden opportunity. It is much easier to turn negative emotion into advocacy than turn indifference into giving a damn about your brand. Do not delete negative comments, address them! Don’t take them personally, rather address them calmly and patiently and provide the most detailed knowledge/help you possibly can. Sometimes your customers just want to know that you are human, that you care. More tips in my Fast Company post, How to respond to Facebook attacks.
  • Joel Granoff, Sr. Director of Marketing, SAP – Marketers, B2B & B2C, have an opportunity to treat every “touchpoint” as sacred on the buyer’s journey; think of the demand generation sales funnel as a process for building enduring customer relationships. And, there’s no better way to build a relationship than to have your employees at the very top of the funnel intricately woven into the fabric of the brand starting with website chat, inbound & outbound tele and social media monitoring … these are not customer service agents, they are brand ambassadors.
  • Robert Freeman, Director of Digital and Social Marketing, Michaels Stores – Ask them to share their content and experiences. And be prepared to listen and respond to what they are saying, good or bad.
  • Scott Gulbrasen, Director of Social Media, H&R Block – A majority of the time, engage them about something they’re interested in. Too often brands make it constantly about themselves, their products and what they’re trying to sell. It seems counterintuitive but tap into the vein of the customer by asking and talking about them. This builds engagement and you learn more about your customers.

Have advice of your own? Feel free to share it in the comments.