Mark Tamis Interviewed about "social" engagement

Q: today, more and more marketers are seeking to engage with prospects and customers. ultimately, marketers are looking toward egagement with the belief that it will lead to specific customer emotions and behaviors – measurable results like preference and sales – resulting in the recent uptake in the quest to find an engagement metric. but what is engagement? what does it really mean in marketing?

A: the social customer now has more means at their disposal than ever before to find and exchange with like-minded people – kind of like a village but now on a global scale. they will discuss your company and form their own opinions which they can then propagate if they choose through their social networks. this is regardless of the messages the company would like to position, and especially if it these are deemed to be incongruent with the actions of the company.

the objective of customer engagement from the company’s point of view is to facilitate customer acquisition, retention and referral by ‘participating in the conversation’ as an equal, to listen, to understand the context and intent so as to help shape the discussion and to adapt the company’s behaviour to align to the customers’ expectations. customer referral (or advocacy) especially is of interest because of its influence on the the first two. current measures such as the net promotor score fall short of providing a satisfactory measure. advocacy metrics such as the customer referral value (intent to refer that leads to prospect action) proposed by dr. v. kumar of the georgia state university comes closer to providing a more realistic as it measure the conversion and not only the intent.

i don’t believe there will be any useful ‘engagement metric’ that accurately predicts referral, but it may be interestesting to pursue measuring how your interaction with your customers are perceived by them, and how this perception is progated in their social networks and the effect this has on sales.


Q: given the dynamics of the social media environment and the power customers have come to wield in their relationships with brands, marketers are grasping the importance of breaking through the white noise, of connecting with audiences in a meaningful way. increasingly, that meaningful way is two-way, with customer and marketer each participating in the discussion and just like anyone vested in a budding relationship, marketers wish to engage their customers in this discussion. how should we measure it? what tactics can we employ to help enhance it?

A: currently the most favoured solution is to draw customers into sponsored online communities where it is easier to be more reactive to their needs and where you can facilitate the interactions between your clients and with your company. some trailblazers have devised metrics such as the community health index which aims to measure the ‘health’ of the community and intervene or moderate to keep the momentum high, and introduce triggers that can be acted upon so as to meet the desired outcome of a customer when a community cannot provide one (escalation rules).

one thing that should be remembered is that marketing is not the only relevant function in an organisation to help the customer achieve the desired outcome. there should be a concerted effort between sales, support, invoicing, customer care or even with external parties such as shippers, suppliers, channels and partners to ensure the end-to-end experience satisfies the customer’s expectations on service.

Q: how do we so engage our customers (and potential customers) that they actually have a positive brand experience worthy of changing their feelings, beliefs, actions or behaviors with our brand? what can this kind of engagement really mean?


A: start off with the experience you would want – we are all social customers in the end! from there on start listening and understanding whether the perception of the experience you actually provide matches expectations. next is engagement, interaction with the customers so as to gain actionable insights to tweak what your company and its ecosystem does, which also helps to position your company that is open and transparent that takes into account its customers’ needs. this is an iterative process and is referred to as the experience continüum.

Q: engagement is nothing if not dynamic, so make certain you are constantly learning from prior efforts and adjusting your efforts, measuring them, and doing so over time to nurture your customer-to-brand relationships for maximum lifetime value. How we can set metrics in place to measure our engagement efforts?


A: here again i refer to the work of dr. v. kumar. ultimately the efforts should be reflected in the growth of your customer base, sales figures and margins. number of followers or facebook fans have very little value as such. it is understanding what they do with these touchpoints that is far more interesting, like did they refer your brand to their social network? are they existing customers? how regularly do they buy from you? what is the link between social media activity and buying behaviour? are there cross-channel interaction patterns in their behaviour? many of questions that are still difficult to answer but will ultimately give you a better understanding of behaviour patterns.

Q: choosing channels that are most likely to achieve your objectives via engagement. how does this all change as our customer grows in the relationship with our brand?

A: you should aim at understanding where your customer is discussing your offering and adapt your approach accordingly, and not only choose the ‘platform of the day’ and hope that people will come and flock to it. this will also help in deciding where to invest and optimize the resources of your company.

one should look at it from the customer’s perspective – what is the ‘job’ she is trying to do? what are the desired outcomes? you should also take into account is that your customer may jump from channel to channel based on their needs and means at their disposal, which means that you will need have a presence there and keep track of these interactions to keep a coherent view of their behaviours and their evolution.

expectations will evolve to where the customers will expect that you understand their context, and that you adapt your interaction with them based on those insights.


Original interview made by Adriano Gasparri -