Designing Social Media Engagement

Social media is ALL about engagement. However, it’s not so easy to create engagement. In fact, it’s darn challenging, as so many organizations and brands have discovered. Creating engagement is one-third natural confluence and two-thirds design. Thoughtfully designed social media programming generates the natural confluences of interest, participation, and content that ultimately … creates engagement. A comprehensive social media strategy should include designed participation opportunities on every platform that add value and creates deeper loyalty.

The key to designing engagement is understanding the value that you can add to each channel and conversation, and programming for it.

No one wants to visit a Facebook Page that is a replica of the content offered on the website. No one wants to subscribe to a YouTube channel that is a placeholder for videotaped lectures. And I can guarantee you that feeding blog posts through Twitter will not engage your stakeholders if you are not also adding value through personal interaction. So how can you get creative and think about offering real value and content that encourages engagement?

To begin, consider these questions:

  • Why are people interested in your organization?
  • What content creates conversation?
  • What content creates community?
  • What content creates loyalty?
  • What can the community create for your organization?
  • What added value can you offer on that particular social media channel that isn’t offered elsewhere?
  • What does the medium dictate?

Then consider the channel itself: create a list of features offered by each social media channel. Mash up features with your content to add value and create engagement. What about using Twitter’s hashtag feature to host a twitter chat? Can you create a Facebook application that enhances engagement and adds value? What can you do with the moderator function in YouTube? Or ask fans to upload photos to Facebook to express their beliefs?

Lastly, put it all together in a calendar. Similar to an editorial calendar, think about what features and actions you want to regularly offer on each social media channel and how you will implement them. Plan for engagement.

I recently offered a presentation as a webinar titled Understanding the Engagement Factor. The main ideas are summarized above. The presentation also includes theories of engagement, nonprofit examples, barriers to engagement, and an example of a program calendar for Facebook engagement. I’d love to know of other examples of nonprofits engaging successfully on social media. The full slide deck is embedded below. Enjoy!

Debra Askanase has 20 years of experience working in nonprofit organizations, from Community Organizer to Executive Director. She is the founder and lead consultant at Community Organizer 2.0, a social media strategy firm for non-profit organizations and businesses. She blogs about the intersection of social media, nonprofits, and technology at and regularly provides advice and commentary to our eJewish Philanthropy community.