Guest Posts, Social Media Case Studies

It’s About Response, Not Engagement

Guest post by Jeff Molander, Author of the new book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You
and adjunct professor, Loyola University Business School. He blogs at

We’re all listening, engaging, sharing, posting, updating. But with what business outcome in mind? When we say engagement, might we really mean “prolonged attention?”? And if so, is engaging taking full advantage of the social media opportunity?

I’ve met a handful of successful ‘social sellers’ while researching my book. And they all told me the same thing: The key is to engage in ways that provokes behavior… acts that reveal insights on customers pains or desires. Then, funneling those insights into marketing programs that exploit those insights in ways that produce sales. And that’s what direct response marketing is all about.

David Oglivy himself said, “You direct response people know what kind of advertising works and what doesn’t work. You know it to a dollar. The general advertising people don’t know.”

Over forty years ago Ogilvy predicted a collision between direct response and advertising that is actually happening right now. In February of 2009, two advertising industry giants finally caved and said, “There is no longer a linear model of consumer behavior. The concept of AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action) is now spaghetti. Direct response no longer exists at the end of the purchase funnel. Thanks to the digitization of everything, brand and response are now intertwined.”

Those two men were Daniel Morel, CEO of Wunderman, and John Gerzema, chief insights officer of Young and Rubicam Group. The heads of these massive global advertising agencies went on to proclaim, “To rebuild brand value, direct response can play a vital role…we have the tools, technology, data, and knowledge to learn, adapt, customize, and respond to stimulate not only sales, but contribute in building loyalty and affinity for the brand.”

Behavior Trumps Engagement

Yes, trust and listening to customers has always been required. But engaging with quality content is not enough. You’ve got to provoke customers to respond in ways that generate inquiries and questions you can help them solve. Understanding buyers’ motivations (and working with them) has always been the secret to success—since man invented the idea of selling.

Could the key to selling things with social media be, at the core, getting back to basics?

  • methodvsmadness

    Interesting top

  • methodvsmadness

    Interesting topic! I actually use response metrics under a banner of engagement metrics, so I don’t actually distinguish between the two.

    If someone signs up for the mailing list that’s clearly more important than if someone watches a video or posted a comment. But it’s best to keep track of all actions to best understand user behavior and how to gradually improve your key metrics.

    • almafumiko

      I agree with methodvsmadness. Engagement and response go hand in-hand. Before one can expect a response, especially in this economic climate, the user may need time get to interact with a product/service. Definitely agree that an actual response is more important but in terms of value, the engagement carries just as much weight in establishing user confidence and conversion.

  • AmyMccTobin

    Why isn’t the book available for KINDLE? You’ve caused me to react and want to purchase, but I’m a Kindle ADDICT.

    • jeff.molander

      Hi, Amy…

      You’re on to me. Indeed, practicing what I preach and the Kindle version is available here.

      Since you’re an addict and all you’re sure to enjoy the section where we discuss a means to amp-up the technique– creating “content addictions” among customers.

  • laurenamcmullen

    This is a very good point. Social Media can help your prospects identify their pain and then direct them to your marketing funnel where the sales process begins in earnest. But, before they will share their true pain they must feel like you care so the relationship always must come first.

  • WillKriski

    ok so how do we do it

  • JerryNihen

    I enjoyed this article a lot. I definitely think that we are “getting back to the basics” of connecting and human interaction.

  • jvanrijn

    I’ts always been the question what type of behaviour and metrics we should be using. A sell is better and more direct than an casual look over. Doh! From the direct response measurements in e-mailmarketing this is certainly been the leading way: measure the whole chain. But please do not forget that there is a large part of your audience that just consumes the info and builds up appreciation / keeps you in mind until the time to buy is there. Some products have a long incubation time, like cars and luxury items. Be sure to measure the direct sales and outcomes, but don’t steer on that alone, or the responsive audience that was paying out, might just dry up.

  • meganehaney

    This is another great way to look at social media! I think that we get caught up in engaging our brand or products and we forget that what we really want is response to those things!

    Thanks for sharing,

    Megan Haney

  • spiritsentient

    Agreed, response is key, and feeling ignored… well… sucks :D

  • natmich

    Really interesting post, Jeff! I really like this idea of focusing not just on engagement for the sake of engagement, but rather the momentum of that engagement- how much discussion and action an initial interaction can lead to. And glad to see your book is on Kindle! Look forward to reading it.

    • jeff.molander

      @natmich Actually… if you’ll allow me to clarify my position… it is precisely NOT the momentum of the engagement but the DESIGN of it. This is where I am falling out of harmony with most of the Social Media Universe, I admit. Call me crazy but I don’t think reach, frequency/momentum et al (advertising) is what works– AS WELL as direct response design.