Elements of an Engagement Plan

In the previous post, Engage Your Community, we examined how you can begin to engage the social media community you’ve identified in previous steps. Now let’s take a look at how you can create a plan to engage your community.

Social Media Engagement

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Your engagement plan is the tactical realization of your social computing strategy. As such, each tactic should tie back to a strategic initiative — increasing sales, spreading the word, encouraging legislative action, increasing brand awareness, and the like.

You should consider including the following elements, as appropriate, in your engagement plan.

Goals for Engagement

You can expect various types of results from engaging with your community, and they can be categorized broadly into the following:

  • Listen and Identify — Learning about your community via audience analysis that identifies what your community values and will respond to
  • Inform — Increase the knowledge about your company within your community
  • Consult and Involve — Band your community together to improve and amplify your enterprise’s activities — a related concept is known as the wisdom of crowds:[1] the ability of masses of people to suggest accurate or innovative solutions to problems
  • Collaborate and Empower — Encourage community participation and effectiveness by working together and providing empowering tools online and offline, for example, to brainstorm new ideas and approaches, collaborate on messages and themes, or to enable supporters to tell their stories and help recruit new evangelists

Chances are good your types of engagements will fall into the following categories:

  • Identification of problems, opportunities and issues — Use community to keep a pulse on your market
  • Policy consultation — Get your community’s opinion on the direction of your organization, or about desired policy changes in government
  • Customer service and service delivery — Find out what you’re doing right, and wrong, and how you can improve your service to your clients
  • Marketing and communications — Inform your community about significant activities of your enterprise or related entities in close to real-time (Twitter) or through regular updates (Facebook, blogging)

Ensure that your plan covers the following topics.

  • Guiding principles— Lay out your target audiences, target outcomes, what you are offering, your key messages and success metrics. Example guiding principles:
    • Relationships sustain our community. Nurture them.
    • Action is more important than endless discussion
    • Our members are at the center of our community, and control its development
  • Channels— Determine how you’re going to use complementary on- and offline channels (print, TV, other social networks, ads, etc.) to let people know about and get them to contribute to your community. Examples of complementary channel use:
    • Include your social media presence in PSAs
    • Link your Facebook status to Twitter
    • Run a print promotion for a Facebook-based event
  • Activities— What kinds of actions can your community members take on your site and elsewhere? You’ll want to make these actions easy to find and easy to accomplish. Design your calls to action and the high-value interactions you are trying to encourage accordingly. Examples of activities:
    • Tell a friend
    • Like your Facebook page
    • Invite a friend to an event
  • Incentives— Consider offering prizes, points, rebates and other benefits to community members who visit, contribute, or help other members use the site. Examples of incentives:
    • Special achievement badges members can display on their blogs
    • Two-for-one admission to your next event
    • Enter those who comment in a prize drawing
  • Roles and responsibilities— Determine who is responsible for content creation, animation, promotion, outreach, tech support and other functions. Design the production and approval workflows. Ensure that all participants are well-informed about this process. Example roles and responsibilities:
    • Management funds the social media effort
    • The community manager manages social day-to-day activities
    • Outreach crafts the messages for distribution via social media
  • Messages— Well in advance of launch of your social media effort, draft all the on-site and e-mail messages you’re likely to need as you get started. Example messages:
    • Use AddThis[2] to add the ability for Website visitors to comment about you on social media
    • Embed YouTube videos on your Website and ask for comments
    • Include announcement of your social media effort in email newsletters
  • Timeline — Any well-run project needs a plan that specifies what gets done when. Be sure to include all activities, including a periodic evaluation of success metrics.
  • Do’s and don’ts— Create a style guide for your staff to use in order to present a consistent voice. Be sure to address at least the following:
    • How often will the content be updated and posted to social media sites?
    • What type of content will be posted (topics, categories)?
    • How and who will approve content?
    • How will the site look? How is your logo to be displayed? What is the color palette?
    • How will you ensure the site is usable? Accessible (Section 508 compliant)?
    • How will you launch? We recommend a gradual, soft launch so you have time to work out the kinks.
    • How will you collect and safeguard Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?[3]
    • Does the site have privacy and legal disclaimers? What kinds of content need legal review? What legal jurisdictions do you need to take into account?
    • Ages of community members? Do they need to be 18 or over? How do you filter out the kids?

Next up: Create Your Internal Social Media Policy

Elements of an Engagement Plan is the 23nd in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?Social Sites DefinedWhy Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1


[1] The concept of the wisdom of crowds (defined: bit.ly/a9cUC3) was articulated by James Surowiecki in his 2005 book, The Wisdom of Crowds (amzn.to/buJlFO). Further discussion of this intriguing concept is beyond the scope of this book.

[2] AddThis: bit.ly/d6oL2B

[3] Definition: bit.ly/aX2Swd