The art of engagement

From the dawn of social media, to our current ability to be curators and broadcasters of our own content – the digital space has certainly changed over the years. And how we interact digitally is constantly changing too. Our Facebook profiles might be packed full of weird and wonderful pictures with friends and family, whilst our LinkedIn accounts are a far more professional (and in most cases, much less fun) platform to broadcast our credentials. The way we engage with one another is fast paced and dynamic, and so too is the way we engage with brands.

Engaging people with your brand online takes two different forms – earned media (when supporters advocate your brand) and paid media (when it’s your brand pushing the messages out). To gain success in both of these areas you need a solid brand story, that’s nothing new, but how you tell that story – through your visual and verbal identity, but also the joined up tactics you use online – can mean the difference between flyaway success and a big brand flop.

Regardless of budget, the online space is a sophisticated environment, and it’s no longer enough to just churn out paid media in a vacuum. An advertising banner offers little space to position your brand story, and the same goes for traditional devices like mail shots. People are becoming increasingly discerning as they become flooded with more and more information online – so for them to start truly engaging with your brand, they need to ‘experience’ it, becoming fully immersed in everything it’s about. By doing this, you also increase the chance of gaining brand advocates – a loyal crowd of converts who live and breathe your brand story, and happily shout about it both on and offline.

There are some fantastic examples of this type of experiential, integrated brand engagement. A flash mob from the Danish Orchestra demonstrates just how promoting the brand offline, in a way that engages all the senses, can drive rich online content, whilst Yeo Valley have also done some really brilliant work on developing their story for online engagement. But creating advocates who will promote your brand for you isn’t easy – there’s a huge difference between people ‘liking’ your brand on Facebook, and actively buying into it in the real world.

So what are the rules of successful engagement? Well, your content not only needs to be relevant, useful and entertaining, but for maximum outreach, it needs to connect people with one another, not just your brand. Content can take the form of a film, applications, games and TV, to any form of rich online experience, but for people to share this, it’s absolutely crucial that there’s a value exchange. If you want me to like you, and share your information, then what do I get in return? As part of their winning marketing campaign, Yeo Valley offered the chance to win tickets to the X Factor final, and it’s this type of win-win relationship that will be a key driver in successfully engaging people with your brand.