If you work with social media you have probably had someone try to convince you of the value of creating engagement with your customers or perspective customers.Then the conversation usually turns to what is the value of that engagement.The social media person tries to convince you that there is so much value but they probably have a hard time articulating that value in a way that the person who is not so social media savvy would understand.I've been in both seats.  In my previous job my roles were to drive the strategy formation process, develop and implement a system of management, and develop and implement our social media strategy.  Social media is what I'm passionate about so I was always having this conversation with my boss, the CEO, as to the value of social media.  I was talking like the person who was on tweet deck every day and I was not bringing it up to the level of the CEO who is worried about achieving the vision.

When I was driving the strategy process I had to walk people through a process that was something like this:

  1. Get them to clearly articulate the vision
  2. Define the key objectives or initiatives to achieve the vision
  3. Develop the measurements of success each objective/initiative
  4. Assess the current situation
  5. Develop strategies to achieve the objectives that leverage strenghts and address weaknesses
  6. Create metrics that would allow us to understand if the strategies are successful
  7. Create tactics that enabled the strategies

(There is a ton of detail behind this process that my brilliant friend John Bernard taught me.  Check out his book coming out this fall - Business at the Speed of Now.)

What I found as I rolled this out across the organization was that people love to talk about tactics.  This is mainly because that is where most people live on a day to day basis.  Their jobs are to do tactics.  Unless the management team is willing to the vision, corporate objective and strategy work, people will jump from the version of the vision they have straight to tactics because that is what they know and that is where they live.

Engagement is a tactic of the social media team.  It is not a business objective.  Engagement in a business context is about building relationships that you have the ability to leverage now or in the future to fulfill a business objective.

The key for people who participate in or manage social media is to understand the vision of the company and the corporate objectives that have been laid out to achieve that vision.  You may find that you don't get very good answers for this, but keep pushing.  Unless you understand the business objectives, it is very hard for you to create metrics that show your success (or ROI) because you don't really know what success is.

Engagement is a tool that you will have to use in social media but keep in mind that it is a tactic to achieve a business objective.  If you are not building on that engagement over time to achieve something you are just hanging out.  As the chairman of my previous company would say to my boss, "We pay you for results not activity".  Engagement is an activity that should generate results that are in line with the objectives of the company.

If you are someone who manages social media, do you look at engagement this way when you talk to execs or your boss?  What has been your experienec with talking about the value of social media activites to execs?