Probably you all know those funnel models for social media. When you ‘reach’ an ‘X’ number of people, at the end you will have a ‘Y’ number of people that are really and deeply ‘engaged’. In marketing reasoning those are the people that ‘buy’ the most products or are most likely to ‘convert’ as a response to the message of your organization. This word ‘engaged’ used to be linked to my pre-marital status, but now I can be engaged with everyone who follows, likes, comments of shares my posts! But what is real engagement?

Right buttons

If you are looking for the simple answer; engagement can tell you if you are doing things right. If you post something on Facebook for instance and nobody is doing anything – so there is no engagement at all – you are probably not doing things right. If there is a lot of liking, sharing and commenting you may have hit the right buttons. But… maybe this way of looking at it is too simple. If your target group is ‘teen boys in the age range 13-17’ and after checking the statistics you discover you are reaching mainly ‘female in the age range 45-54’, you are likely to be somewhat less happy with the engagement. So let me try to give a more comprehensive answer.


Yes ‘engagement’ can tell if you are on the right track, but it is so much more than just a click on the blue thumb, sharing content with a friend, becoming a follower of a page or commenting on a post. Someone who took a lot of time studying ‘consumer engagement’ is professor Roderick Brodie. Apart from being a keen walker and swimmer he knows a lot about online marketing. In one of his older publications he states that engagement is first and foremost a relational process. So engagement is not an ‘act’ but a ‘relationship’ first.

So basically it is about what people think, how they feel and act.

Support life

Engagement is ‘need driven’; that means that it starts with the need of the person you want to reach. Many of the organizations I am a consultant for are ‘message-driven’; this means that their message is their focal point. If you really want to have engagement on social media you need to connect your message to the need of the ‘persona’ you try to reach. How can your message support the life story of your target audience?

Best practices

In the secular world there are some great examples. Hilton that supports the life story of the searching traveler with Hilton suggests. Nike encourages little girls to dream bigger. KLM that provides on the spot support to their customers. Starbucks used the socializing need of their coffee drinking customer to crush it on social media. Maybe they are big and have more money to spend than your organization, but we can learn from their successes and mistakes.


Another thing Brodie explains is that engagement is multidimensional, it has different dimensions; Cognitive, emotional and behavioral. So basically it is about what people think, how they feel and act. This reflects the relational side of engagement. In a relationship all those components are of value and when I talk about relationships I can’t separate it from interaction. In this way engagement gives so many opportunities to reach out and to build God’s kingdom on social media when we have deep engagement with the right people.

Curious how to build relationships with seekers on social media. Read the next article.