I think those 2 words are starting to lose their meaning when talking about using social media to reach audiences. I am not offering another word because at the end of the day a word should only describe an idea of what you are truly doing and maybe THAT is the thing that is becoming lost in all of this talk. What are we truly saying when we use those words?

What is "engagement" really?

Engagement isn’t a measurement from your Facebook or Youtube Insights, it isn’t how many retweets you receive on Twitter. Connections aren’t simply a number of followers and likes. In thinking about the traditional use of this word, your “connection” was someone who was willing to help you, someone who knew you, trusted you and vice versa.

Audiences are now delighted by communicating not with a “brand,” but with a “face” or a person. This mindset shift in corporate America is very hard to make when they really never thought about the audiences actually being people…with faces beyond eyeballs. If they did think this way, would they really keep hitting that face with ads over and over again? Would the conversation be constantly one sided, “buy my stuff” ” buy my stuff” “click here, and buy my stuff.” That is the extent of the brand relationship with customers that the typical movie studio or distributor has now.

When I talk to you about creating a relationship with your audience that is long term, not just for one project, I really want you to think about what this means. The investment of time and creativity and energy this is going to take, not to boost “likes” on Facebook and follower numbers on Twitter, but to really draw people to what you are doing and hold them there willingly. Using these great new tools is just a newer way of communicating, but the communication itself isn’t new. We as humans have always communicated with each other and naturally gravitated to those with similar interests and it is the same now.

That is also an important distinction. Audiences may not only want to communicate with you, but also with like minded people AROUND you and your work. In this way, brands can benefit from heavily using social tools. They don’t have to be the sole source of communication, they can provide a place and content that enables “fans” to speak to each other about the brand. Be careful when you are using these tools only to speak about yourself, but also don’t ¬†become so enamored of people “buzzing” about you and your work that you never step into the conversation. I see this a lot with brands that happily RT positive tweets but almost never get into conversations.

Main thing to takeaway here is not the fact that you are trying to pump up “scores” or numbers on your channels. You are trying to touch people using electronic means and this will take time, effort, energy and a lot of patience. There’s no quick fix, no magic solutions, no one ¬†”engagement tool” that is going to make these relationships last. For those who don’t have these attributes (time, energy etc), this isn’t going to work and you will have an increasingly difficult time gaining an audience in the future.

A Seth Godin-ism that I recently heard on the radioLitopia site in an interview on the new face of publishing. In Seth’s view, this isn’t a bad thing, it just means roles will be redefined, responsibilities will be greater on creators (authors, musicians, filmmakers, artists in general). Nothing you haven’t been hearing me say to you for a while now. You can of course listen to the whole 30 minute interview, or you can just read these highlights I pulled out. Though he is talking about book publishing, there are many parallels with film.

-The internet has expanded the amount of content created and consumed, but it destroyed the industry In his view, we won’t create and consume less, but for the bureaucratic and scarcity driven business models that once dominated the industry, the end is near. He even recounted conversations he has had in boardrooms of publishing houses where management seems content that they will retire long before the new models are figured out. WHAT?? He thinks publishers (and I will add distributors) are woefully unprepared for their new role as connector, curator and partner to creators. Few have invested in the platforms and dialogs with consumers that will drive the new economy.

-Don’t fear price, fear clutter He sees a divide in pricing structures for books and I can see it for films as well. As more and more titles flood the market, the price you can charge becomes directly related to how similar your story is to others and how much of a following you have as an artist. Recent ebook success stories from authors Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking show the pricing divide. While you may not have heard of either of these authors, they are cranking the $.99 ebook to six figure incomes. Higher paid authors and higher priced books come from only the very tippy top of the traditional publishing world as does comparable filmmakers and studio films. The more similar the films you are making to others already in existence, the more difficulty you will have making money. Are you telling stories anyone could tell? If so, you’d better make them cheaply because the value to the consumer is low, maybe worthless.

-The film is just the center of a conversation He said a book here, but you get what I mean. The fans need a work to be the short hand for a group of like minded people, the “in” people, the cool people. Enable your work to become the entry point to a larger conversation with you and among others. If one hasn’t seen the movie (read the book), one can’t easily join the conversation. In this way, your work spreads.

He also touched on the need for publishers to adopt a whole new way of looking at their client relationships. If an author/creator has built their own audience, created a sense of loyalty, sourced a means of distribution directly and tells one of a kind stories, what do they need a third party (publisher, distributor) for? In order to sustain and remain relevant, publishers/distributors should also be in direct contact with an interest driven audience that can be serviced by partnerships with author/creators rather than staying focused on the retail market relationship. In other words, instead of insisting authors/creators use social media to building audience relationships, they should try doing more of it themselves.