Considerations for Digital Engagement
I’ve recently been refreshing my knowledge of ‘digital engagement’ – the art and science of using digital channels to engage with people, typically around a specific topic. It’s a subject that I felt I already understood, but I wanted to review the latest thinking. After all, in the digital space nothing stands still for very long. What was relevant yesterday isn’t necessarily relevant today – and almost certainly won’t be relevant tomorrow.
As I worked my way through the volumes of information covering digital engagement, it was clear that it’s no longer a strategic option – something that organisations do to stand out from the crowd. If you’re not digitally engaging with your key stakeholders today, there’s a good chance that you might not have any tomorrow. Whether you’re:
digital engagement should be an essential aspect of your operational model.
It can increase sales (or votes, or donations, or fans, or memberships) while at the same time: reducing costs, enhancing stakeholder intimacy, broadening employee satisfaction, facilitating collaboration, and fostering innovation. It can educate, inform, assist, entertain, stimulate, and persuade.
The volume of information available shows just how hot digital engagement is as a topic. There are white papers on the importance of great content. There are webinars on creating immersive experiences for stakeholders. There are podcasts on establishing multi-platform environments with carefully designed information architectures that enable interaction. There are ‘cookbooks’ for engagement via: websites, blogs, social media channels, mobile apps, point-of-sale devices, and in-product messaging.
This is all great information, so rather than attempt to add to the knowledge base of tips, tricks and techniques for building digital engagement I’m going to focus on the basics.
At its most fundamental, digital engagement is really just about building relationships with people and their lifestyles. It’s something that organisations have been doing for decades. The channels by which you undertake digital relationship building are new, but the basic concepts are the same as when using any medium – digital or otherwise.
It really comes down to three things.
Time is the first basic element of engagement. For any kind of relationship to develop, people must spend time together – either physically or virtually. This might seem obvious but it’s often neglected. Simply reaching out to stakeholders won’t develop a relationship, it’ll just establish the foundation for one. For it to flourish and grow, you need to look for every opportunity to get time with the people with whom you’re trying to build a relationship.
Meaning is the second element of engagement. The time spent together needs to be meaningful. Interaction should be around something that matters to the stakeholder – something that they care about. In the best relationships, this extends beyond direct benefits, and into indirect or emotive benefits. It means that the time invested in the relationship is quality time.
Reciprocity is the last element of engagement. It means that the time spent isn’t just meaningful, but also has significance. It isn’t just about interacting around a topic of interest, it’s about interacting with mutual value. Time is precious and all parties need to perceive that the investment in the relationship is bringing (or will bring) appropriate rewards. Another way to look at this is that time spent without reciprocity is often considered to be wasted by at least one party.
Organisations that leverage digital channels to cultivate time with their stakeholders are halfway to forming a relationship with them. If they can make this time meaningful, they’re probably 80% of the way there. If they can then add reciprocity into the mix, they will be positioned to develop mutually beneficial, enduring relationships and establish true digital engagement.