Intent and the Art of Creating Engaging Social Content

Posted by: in Analytics, Insights, Integrated Communications, Integrated Marketing, Marketing Insights, Media & Engagement, Pre-Commerce, Social Commerce, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thinking Creatively, W2O Group on September 24, 2014

Did you ever wonder why some social media posts do well while others fall flat? For anyone that works in the digital space, you understand that creating engaging content and social media posts require a bit of art AND science.


On the science side, understanding whom your target audience is and what types of content/updates they like is important.  Our agencies at W2O Group (WCG, Twist and BrewLife) have become really good at this by using a combination of algorithms and targeted groups of segmented Twitter users. We are helping clients like HP, BMC Software and LAP-BAND do this on a regular basis.

Good “science” also requires understanding, which channels are most effective for your brand i.e. where do your customers/prospects hang out but also your stakeholders Circadian Rhythms (when your audience has the highest propensity to digest/shares content).

As for the “art” side of the equation, the levers are of course more subjective. Obviously creating cleverly worded posts or including beautiful visuals of people, products and places usually leads to good engagement. But clever and pretty alone aren’t enough. Often, there are subtle nuances that can dramatically increase or dampen the effectiveness of a piece of content or a post.

For folks engaging in social, the intent piece can be particularly important. To that end, I’ve noticed an increasing trend of people I am connected with looking to manufacture engagement by asking questions like “what’s your least favorite movie” or “if you could meet three people from the past, who would they be?” Once in a while, these types of questions can lead to fun interactions and often spur interesting debates. However, for netizens that appear to be engaging in these exercises for the sake of increasing their Klout scores versus genuinely engaging with their community, I’ve noticed not only a dearth of responses (and even begging of people to join in by heavy tagging within these posts) but also a general trend downward of their appearance in my feeds.

When it comes to brands engaging, there is a similar “intent” sniff test that more and more customers are employing before deciding whether to “like, share, comment or in some cases, unfollow.” In fairness, companies – especially those that are publicly traded – have a legal obligation to make money. As such, it is their job to market themselves and sell product/services whenever possible. But as many of us have seen, the social web is often an unwelcome landscape for constant pleas of “please buy our stuff.” Those that employ these tactics tend to see next to no engagement and are forced to pay for any exposure for their updates.

For those brands (and people) thinking about ways to increase their overall engagement, here are a few tips to consider helping on the “art and science” aspects of social behavior:

  1. Be a good citizen. Always consider following real accounts back. You never know who you are going to meet and where it is going to lead, especially on places like Twitter and Google Plus.
  2. Take time to engage with other users, especially when there is no apparent motive. Examples might be:
    • Liking a picture of somebody’s kid
    • Sharing their (or their company’s) recent blog post on Twitter
    • Connecting likeminded individuals, especially as it pertains to good content (Mary Smith, you should read Joe Jones latest article about mobile marketing and include a link).
  3. Consider your motive every time you post. Are you trying to be interesting? Clever? Or are you just trying to increase your Klout score/vanity metrics?
  4. Ask yourself, “Would I like or share this content?”
  5. Look at your overall mix of updates. Are they more about you/your Company? Or are they a combination of useful updates curated from your feed? Even better, are they a mix of funny, interesting, beautiful with an occasional “and don’t forget, I/we sell things so we appreciate your business?”

At the end of the day, for those companies engaging in social or people like ourselves that work in the space, we have a job to do. Being social for social sake isn’t an option. But it doesn’t mean an endless stream of self-promotional updates. And just think, for those times where you really need people to pay attention (filling a job req, promoting an event or a product/service), don’t you think it’s better if everyone is paying attention to you versus working hard to run the other way?

By: Aaron Strout

Aaron is the President of WCG, one of the three agencies under the W2O Group umbrella. He is a regular contributor to Marketing Land and a co-host of video podcast, Live from Stubbs.

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

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