Engagement is where you find it.

I love it when great minds think a like.  First Brian Solis sets up the segue from low-level to high-level engagement, and then Dan Holden talks about what the most important influencers might be.  so today I can talk about where you find the highest-level engagement in your social media program

As a recap, since it was almost a week ago, the first level of engagement is made up of people that agree with you and give you kudos.  You know, the really intelligent readers ;).  The second level are the people who disagree with you and can include competitors.  these are people that can help you make course adjustments by giving you a reality check.  You don't have to accept what they say, but looking into the criticism can often make what you share so much better.

The most valuable of all engagement, however, is the expansion level -- the people that take your ideas and concepts to different levels.  It may start as either agreement or disagreement but goes deep into the issue and becomes a virtual partnership.  These are the people that link to what you have to say and send it out among their own networks.  These are the people to find and cultivate because they help you to understand yourself better.

Over the past few years, I've found a lot of these people.  Like Brian Fuller now back at EE Times and his boss Paul Miller; like the aforementioned Solis and Holden; like someone who may read this and give his own two cents to the concept.  Because of this interaction I have been able to better define my philosophy ad business model to the point that I can now get it across in a matter of minutes with very little Q&A.  Doesn't help with short budgets, but I know I can fit what I do into almost any budget around.  These relationships have also helped me escape the small orbit of the semiconductor world and explore new technologies, countries and cultures.  I've even entered the political arena in some areas.

But here's the thing, while there are tools that can help you quantify this kind of interaction, you can't really qualify it with tools.  You have to go out and find it.  Luckily, that's not as hard or time consuming as it may seem.

Hashtags, retweets are probably the most common ways of finding some of these third level influencers, but most of what you will find are second level followers -- the people that agree with you.  What is most helpful is linking multiple platforms.  I currently write five blogs on widely different subject to widely different audiences.  i also maintain 3 presences on Facebook, three on Twitter, one on Linked in (with participation in 2 dozen groups), one on Plaxo and about a half dozen other more obscure social networks.  Now if I was actually maintaining each of these individually, I would have no life and no home.  But all social networks make it possible to link to other networks and other social media platforms.  All of my presences on the social web are linked to each other, so when I post something in one place, it pops it in multiple places, like Facebook, Plaxo, and Networked Blogs.  

My readers pick them up there and, amazingly enough, begin conversations there.  Those of you reading this on the State of the Media site may wonder if I get much engagement here and, in fact, I don't.  I get about two or three comments a month here (which is actually more than a lot of blogs), but what you may not see are the conversations and comments going on about these posts in other platforms.  The most prolific area is actually Networked Blogs, followed closely by Facebook and then Twitter.  As it is, the 6,000 members of my worldwide network are pretty chatty and I get some great feedback from them.

This kind of following and feedback didn't happen overnight, however.  This network has been growing organically for about 6 years, when I really tarted getting into the social media scene.  I do very little promotion because I like to see how it can develop naturally.  If I put more promotion into it, I would imagine it might grow much larger, but right now I can handle it on my own.  What could you do with it if you had some staff to help?  What could you learn? And who exactly would be participating in the conversation?

That will be the subject of part three.