It is time to “engage or die.” A look back at the beginning.

Brian Solis, the author of Engage and prolific social-media researcher, laconically wrote in his book, “Engage or die” (Solis, 2).  He went on to clarify that companies that fail to interest their audience in a meaningful, enduring, and transparent manner will ultimately be superseded by companies that do.  He went on to explain that “Inevitably, however, the greatest advantages of social media reside in its ability for worthy individuals and companies to shape perceptions, steer activity, incite action, and adapt to the communities that establish the markets” (12).

Solis touches upon the idea of companies adjusting to their communities.  A strange concept for business only a couple of decades ago, possibly, but a very important consideration now with how prevalent and influential online communities have become.  Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff mention in their book The Groundswell the significance of social media, and as they succinctly explained, “Your brand is whatever the customer says it is” (Li and Bernoff, 78).  Indeed, because of the widespread use of services like Twitter, Facebook, and youtube, the power of social media—or the groups of people that comprise them (and it is important to remember that)—now can damage or boost a company’s reputation because it gives customers a platform to reach potentially millions of other consumers with relative ease.

For Example (not a real one):
Twitter + many followers + “Wal-Mart is trying to lie to us into thinking they’re a good company with a fake PR campaign.” = a potential sh!tstorm for Wal-Mart (Poor Wal-Mart, forever being PR’s example of a company making a bad decision).  That 93-character message that costs a customer nothing to produce has potentially cost a corporation millions in lost sales and PR campaigns.  This is especially true if the groundswell gets hold of the message.  The groundswell is the generic term ascribed to how quickly a message produced on a social-media platform proliferates and gains support through online communities.

So a good rule-of-thumb according to John Havens and Shel Holtz, the authors of Tactical Transparency, is to always be upfront with your intentions, a lesson hard-learned by Edelman and Wal-Mart during the Wal-Marting Across America campaign.

If companies don’t work with their publics and communities in a clear and honest method to construct a brand, then they are putting their name adrift in the turbulent seas of social media and allowing (either willingly or not) the community tides to decide if that brand sinks or floats.  By working with their audience, companies can direct their brand into safer waters, but they need to be constantly aware of reefs lurking just below the surface or icebergs on the horizon—each encounter a potential social-media disaster.

By Iam Pace, find me on twitter–dubiousbyname

Tactical Transparency by John Havens and Shel Holtz | November 8, 2008
The Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff | 2008
Brian Solis. (2010) Engage: Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web
An Introduction to Ethics January 27, 2011


11 thoughts on “It is time to “engage or die.” A look back at the beginning.

  1. Garrett Temple

    I love this blog post. This post shows how importiant it is for many companies to use and engage in social media. Not only does social media help companies create brand awreness, but it also allows the company to engage with their fans and future customers. This blog post also goes to show how important it it for companies not to be transparent, and how it can end up hurting them in the end.

  2. Thanks for your addition, Garrett.

    Indeed, social media is important even if your relationship with the public is limited such as with business-to-business companies. The waves you make within the social media sea will be much smaller than a business that relies on contact with their audience, but the waves are still there and they will be noticed and talked about–it is the nature of social media. It is important for a company to understand this because if they ignore these small waves for long enough, it may turn into a tsunami of trouble.

    –Iam Pace

  3. Alisha Roemeling

    Super interesting. I think it’s a great thing that companies are getting more involved in social media. It becomes super time consuming though, and being online is something that you can kind of get sucked into. Social media is definitely important, but also interacting in real life is key.

  4. This post really shows how important it is that all companies engage in social media. It also shows though that they need to be careful in the ways they use it because social media is so powerful that the littlest tweet could cost a company a great deal. A good example is when a employee of Chrysler dropped the F bomb on their companies Twitter account on accident and it really affected their company negatively.

  5. Alisha, much like journalism has dramatically changed because of technology and social media, it would appear that how businesses deal with the public is also making an interesting shift.

    David, I agree and thank you for providing a great example. Businesses and organizations should travel carefully–and truthfully–in social media. I suggest they follow what Kelli told us in class, “If you’re being bad, stop!”

  6. This is absolutely true. I feel like so many companies these days are so stuck in the old ways and refusing to participate in the conversation. The reality is, by sitting idly by, they are allowing their competitors to leave them in the dust with one tweet, and are effectively shooting themselves in the foot. There is no better way to say it: “Engage or die.” Those who refuse to engage are missing out on valuable opportunities to advertise, discuss, and most importantly, listen and respond to their customers like their competitors are doing.

  7. Kylie, I agree with your agreeing! Kidding aside, I am glad you enjoyed the post.

    Yes, companies need to understand that even though their actions can still be obfuscated, to an extent, they must be aware of the power of people coming to together. I suppose it could be something akin to a communication revolution. Social media allows us to instantly talk to thousands of people across the world, and tell thing of the brands we like and do not like, and why.

    I enjoyed the class with all of you and thanks for contributions.

    –Iam Pace

  8. Daniela Moorman

    I am in total agreement with the points made in this blog post. Companies need to address negativity and be transparent with their intentions. Otherwise, the company can and will lose customers (potential and current) from this bad WOM and negativity. It is also important for a company to stay close to their core values and beliefs. They must also understand the importance of social media, their channels and how the atmosphere of those can affect the company as well as the communities in which they are involved. Great post!

  9. Brianne Limani

    I definitely agree, and I love how you used examples from our reading to support and better explain your arguments. companies need to participate in conversation and engage their public or they will get left behind by the companies who understand these concepts and embrace/utilize them. Even Brian Solis agrees the conversation index is extremely underutilized. Companies need to know what people are saying about them, and respond accordingly (which may sometimes mean no response at all). If they can perfect listening/monitoring, engaging should come easier. People are going to talk regardless, so companies can help by engaging and steering the conversation.

  10. The truth is, the social media phenomenon can be overwhelming for organizations who don’t quite understand it. The idea that customers have such an influential voice now is scary to organizations who are accustomed to communicating the image of their brand exactly how they want to. Social media, and attempting to “engage” with your customer base can seem a huge risk to an organization because they feel that creating an environment where negative discussion could take place might not be worth it. However, as Solis explains in his book, organizations need to jump on the train of social because that’s where we are headed. The sooner they join the better. Taking the risk is worth it, and the more they try, the more comfortable they will feel with social media channels and their benefits.

  11. Thanks for the post, Emily!

    “The truth is, the social media phenomenon can be overwhelming for organizations who don’t quite understand it. The idea that customers have such an influential voice now is scary to organizations who are accustomed to communicating the image of their brand exactly how they want to. ”

    I would like to put into use one of my favorite quotes for companies and organizations afraid of social media: Cowards die in shame.

    –Iam “Facetious” Pace ;-)

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