How many times have you heard that being successful in using social media is all about engagement? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it isn't. For a consumer that is going on Twitter to complain about how their mobile phone doesn't have coverage, they don't want to be "engaged" with your brand … they want you to fix your coverage. Engagement, as social media experts often think about it, is about having a conversation with customers as if you have a relationship with them. Sometimes you do, and that's great. Yet often you may be communicating from a nonexistent place of familiarity and you'd be much better off focused on ADDING VALUE instead of trying to offer engagement. 

I recently experienced two very real examples of this with two brands which on the surface both seem to be using Twitter well for engagement. In reality, they offer a perfect contrast of what to do and what NOT to do when building your strategy for engaging with customers. Let's start with the example of what not to do:



Carnival has more than 36,000 fans and lots of direct engagement. They have lots of @replies to individuals, and they help customers when someone tweets about an issue or problem. So what else could they be doing? 

  1. Separate customer service from main Twitter account. By having a stream of replies only, they miss the opportunity to use the channel more for news and special offers (which have more value for any potential cruiser). Ironically, Carnival has a separate Twitter account for customer service (@CCLSupport), yet they are not actively trying to move customer support related issues over to that account. Even the simple step of directly responding to people who tweet about @CarnivalCruise from that account instead of the main one could help.
  2. Turn Tweeters into advocates by offering real value. When people tweet about going on vacation, why not offer them some incentive to surprise them and keep them talking instead of just telling them to have a nice time? Even something as simple and zero-cost as offering them priority check-in for their cruise would likely delight many of those people tweeting about the experience … and you already know they will tell their entire network on Twitter. I want my friends to wish me a great cruise … I'd love for Carnival to actually give me something to make that really happen.
  3. Follow your customers to enable direct contact. If you are going to use a Twitter as a direct channel to communicate with customers, they why wouldn't you follow every one of your customers who say that they are going on one of your cruises? Currently Carnival follows less than 1% of their followers back. Doing so not only offers them a direct channel to get in touch with you, it will also help to take some of the 1-to-1 conversations happening on Twitter out of the conversation stream and turn them into private conversations so they don't annoy those following your account but not involved in that conversation. 



In contrast, Cirque Du Soleil has more than 225,000 followers on Twitter. More importantly, their stream on Twitter includes many special offers, exclusive events and lots of things that anyone who is interested in any one of Cirque's 22 productions around the world would want to know about – along with direct replies to consumers. What makes their Twitter account work so well?

  1. Create a sense of exclusivity. Throughout the account, Cirque shares photos from exclusive events, links to interesting special offers and generally does a good job of including lots of content that their followers would probably be interested in seeing. More importantly, they leverage the specific value of Twitter to share some of those deals on a platform that is likely to be shared. 
  2. Follow and engage your followers. While Cirque "only" follows less than 20% of the people who follow them, chances are many of their followers are not necessarily engaged Twitter users, so the more important number to consider is that they have a direct connection with more than 35,000 Twitter users. This has a very high value because those people can connect with Cirque directly and become advocates. 
  3. Engage influencers beyond Twitter. Cirque also wins by going beyond Twitter. Over the past several years, I have met people who work in social media at Cirque at events and been lucky enough to be invited to attend several of their shows. Each time, I have had an amazing experience and often shared it through Twitter.