5 Universal "Commandments" Of Digital Engagement for 2014

1. Thou shalt not look down on thy customers' simplicity. 

People use Facebook for social media more than anything else and they check their favorites frequently; "Instagram users are nearly as likely as Facebook users to check in to the site on a daily basis."(Pew) Blogs are sort of dead, except for those who want to advance themselves as thought leaders. Your users probably like simple, bold, clear and simple messages, either funny or inspiring. They relate to pop culture and the celebrities who inhabit it. Stop taking your brand so seriously and bring it to the people where they are.

Here's a screenshot of a chart from Pew's 2013 overview study showing where people are and what they're using. Note that 4 out of 5 are related to personal interest and not career, and are fueled by users finding and sharing simple graphics and messages.

2. Thou shalt not dictate the message.

Trying to control what people say is very old-school. It devolves from a model of mass communications that effectively ended in 1970 and the Vietnam War protests at Kent State. The definition of social media is talking back, and so trying to have a social media function that you dictate is contradictory. You may not realize that you're doing it - for example, do you discourage people from taking photos in your store? If so, why? All publicity is good publicity!

Additionally, employees actually do a lot better as brand ambassadors when you don't overtly or covertly discourage them from speaking freely. This one is easy: Leave people alone.

3. Thou shalt find a good graphic (or infographic).

People online do not read. They scan. No, correction - they would rather read a photo caption. Stop attacking people with words - e.g. your boring corporate blog. Start engaging them with visuals they can relate to. Photos with quotes, infographics, memes, pie charts, and so on.

Image via IvanCash.com

4. Thou shalt not waste the customer's time.

In Las Vegas, at McCarren Airport, there is a sign urging travelers to "follow us on Facebook and Twitter." The obvious question is why I would want to do that. If you offer social media content, make sure it has some benefit to them.

5. Thou shalt get thy customer in the picture.

It can be hard to be the spouse of a celebrity, but the reality is that even the Danish Prime Minister wants to get a picture with the President. Ordinary folks like us are just the same. At the New York New York Last Vegas Hotel & Casino there was a kiosk where we could take pictures of ourselves against the iconic New York skyline, then have the photos sent to ourselves or Facebooked or Tweeted. This was incredibly fun, made the hotel stick in my mind and associated it with a positive image. Even if we never stay there, I know we will go back to see what's going on.

Your digital engagement efforts will benefit if you give people the opportunity to interact with a celebrity or staged setting in some way.

Widely circulated photo of President Obama with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt via IBTimes

* All opinions my own.

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