To cover the inevitable expenses of the Dutch student life, I worked as a online marketeer at a large beer brewery for two years. My main task was to maintain and manage the online community of the firm, which consisted mainly out of people that followed the company social media accounts. Within this online community I pushed content in the form of company posts towards our community members, posts with which I tried people to convince a certain product was attractive, or posts telling our people that our new campaign was cool. But what I did was wrong. Instead of my strong content pushing focus, I should have engaged our community in engaging..
In the last decade, the term “engagement” has been extensively used in marketing literature. But while this term has become more popular, it never has been really been defined or differentiated from terms as “participation” and “involvement”. So when Roderick Brodie and his friends (2013) decided to write an article about virtual brand communities, they choose to focus on the consumer engagement in these communities. What really defines this customer engagement, and how could this customer engagement be created?
They started with the question how to theoretically define consumer engagements, since this was never really done, and came with the following comprehensive definition: “Consumer engagement is an interactive, experimental process, based on individuals engagement with specific objects (e.g. brands, organizations), and/or their community members.” After defining this consumer engagement, they start examining what was needed to create this consumer engagement in online brand communities. A netnography (Dhiraj, 2011) was done were 427 blog posts consisting out of 56.804 words were analyzed. Eventually, Brodie et al. (2013) came to the following practical conclusion: companies must start “engage in engaging”, they must form their brand communities in such a way that consumer interaction determines what is happening.
But how should this “engage in engaging” be implemented by an online marketeer, for example myself? Can we stop working and start drinking beers all day long? Unfortunately that is not the case. By implementing this “engage in engaging” principle, the role of the online marketeer changes, but it does not disappear. Instead of following the traditional marketeer role and hereby pushing content towards community members, online marketeers should be responsible for creating an environment that lets the community members create and share content. Interactions between these community members should form the community.
This is because according to Brodie et al. (2013), the modern consumer does not want “sales talk” from a company account, instead it wants “non-commercially” driven reviews and comments from peer consumers. This may sound like the online marketeer should lose the entire control of their online communities, but that should not have to be the case. In the end, it is mainly important that the consumers perceive the community to be “non-commercially” driven. This causes for a new challenge for the online marketeer: creating environments that are being perceived to be controlled by the consumer, but that in the end cover subjects that engage customers to buy products or services from a company. If this is hard? Yes it is, and if you are not convinced, take a look at this McDonalds example:
Brodie, R., Ilic, A., Juric, B. and Hollebeek, L. (2013). Consumer engagement in a virtual brand community: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Business Research, 66(1), pp.105-114.
Dhiraj, H. (2011). Open Business Council. [online] Openbusinesscouncil.org. Available at: http://www.openbusinesscouncil.org/2011/11/what-is-netnography-the-effects-it-places-on-the-web-and-social-media-industry/ [Accessed 5 Apr. 2015].
YouTube, (2015). #McDStories RUIN LIVES!!. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0hh3M-EanA [Accessed 5 Apr. 2015].