Small Business

Social Marketing: Engagement Equals Endorsement

Gail F. Goodman, Guest Columnist
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The marketing and business world is still abuzz with two recent big business stories. Facebook went public and General Motors pulled its ads from the social media platform due to lack of ROI.

Lost in the shuffle was a lesser-played story of two guys who own a small pizza joint in New Orleans. As part of the news story for NPR, they were paired with a Facebook ad expert who set up a campaign for them to see if Facebook ads work.

The pizza joint owners spent $240 on Facebook advertising and after asking every single customer how they heard about them, realized not one had come from the ads. Failure. Waste of money. End of story, right? Nope.

Here’s the story that people missed. For small businesses — which create over two-thirds of net new jobs, and employ more than half of all working Americans — Facebook is less about advertising and more (much more) about “engagement,” which I’ll explain below. The real story is that you, the small business owner, possess the engagement skill in spades — and can use it to grow your business. I call it Engagement Marketing.

You know your customers

We all do business with small businesses. Think about those you frequent on a daily or weekly basis: your dry cleaner, Web designer, wine merchant, day care provider, barber, or deli, to name a few. The person who owns the business, or the employees, greet you by name, ask about your spouse or children, get you what you need, and wish you a great day. We leave feeling good.

This is such a common occurrence, we don’t even think about how remarkable it is! This personal touch — or creating a WOW! experience — is the cornerstone of Engagement Marketing.

Customers look to you for answers

Engagement is talking with your customers versus “marketing” at them. If a customer comes into your nursery, for example, and asks about a plant and soil conditions, you give the answer. This is what you, as the small business owner, do naturally every day. Why? Because it keeps customers coming back.

Now, take this engagement and put it online. When customers connect with you through Facebook, follow you on Twitter or subscribe to your e-newsletter, you have the same opportunity to help them, and keep them connected to your business even when they’re not physically doing business with you.

A bed and breakfast can post local activities to help travelers plan their vacations. A landscaping company can share helpful gardening tips. A consultant can post a meaty report. A manufacturing firm can provide technical information for engineers. A non-profit can post stories about its work in the community.

When you share helpful content online, your customers give it the “thumbs up,” comment on it, and pass it along to others. These actions are visible to their friends and networks (think about what you see in your own social media newsfeeds). As more people learn about your helpful business, they’re more inclined to connect with you.

Engagement = Endorsement

When people engage with you online and share your content with their friends and networks, they pass along an implied endorsement. “I like (and trust) this business,” they’re saying. Engagement drives repeat sales (as existing customers stay connected with you) and it drives new business, as others learn about your business.

Engagement and its implied endorsement build trust — trust you just can’t buy no matter how big you are or how much money you have.

Gail Goodman is the CEO of Constant Contact, and is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins in a Socially Connected World.

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