Collaboration – Creating a Deeper level Of Social Engagement

Social Collaboration

I know what you’re thinking, “another post on engagement!” I know, I know, but in this post my aim isn’t to tell you the importance of it, rather I am going to lay out the 4 stages of social engagement and how you can use them to move people up the ladder of engagement, from consumptions to collaboration.

Take a close look at the engagement level on your social networks, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Google + or others. Now, think about how many times you’ve thought to yourself, “How can I get more people to engage me?” One of the main reasons for this is because the vast majority of people are consumers. What that means is that they spend all their time consuming your content but do nothing to add to it. Not a like, a +1 a retweet and of course not a comment, nuh uh, no way.

The problem with consumers is that they give you no reason, other than that they are following you, that they like the content you putt out. Of course that doesn’t mean that they don’t like it, in fact they could be influenced by your content, they just aren’t giving you any indication of it and they sure aren’t helping you to influence others.

Consumers are level one in the social engagement hierarchy. As I mentioned in the first paragraph there are 4 of them, they are.

  • Consumption
  • Curation
  • Creations
  • Collaboration

Important Note: While I’ll be giving you ways to move people up the ladder, from consumption to collaboration, it’s important that you know that it’s infinitely harder to move somebody from consumption to collaboration than it is to move somebody from curation to creation. The reason is simple if you think of the 4 stages of social engagement as a ladder. In order to get to the next rung you must first step on the rung below it. In other words, you must first be a consumer before becoming a curator, a curator before becoming a creator and a creator before becoming a collaborator.

So, why social collaboration? That’s a good question actually and one that I’m going to spend a few paragraphs explaining. Collaboration is what you should strive for. It’s the pinnacle of social engagement. Most people think that getting the people of your community to create content around your brand is the best form of engagement, I would disagree. While creation is part of collaboration, it’s more than just creation, it goes further than that.

If we look at the definition of collaboration we will see that it is defined as people working together with others in an endeavor. Think about creation for moment, it’s a one way street. Somebody is creating content, whether it’s a review or a blog post, about how great your business is. That’s awesome, but what if besides just creating the content the author was involved with you in some sort of collaborative effort, say battling homelessness in your community or some other social purpose.

When two people collaborate together on something, especially something that both sides are passionate about, the connection between the two becomes much deeper. A friendship is born. If you can engage your community in a collaborative effort, one that you and the community is passionate about then you will earn more business, generate more referrals and attract more word-of-mouth than ever before.

So, now that we’ve discussed the first rung and the last rung of the ladder of social engagement let’s talk about curation and creation, the middle rungs. Curation is the sharing of web content while creation is the creation of web content. Simple enough.

A good thing to remember is that each rung on the ladder includes the traits of the ones below it. In other words a collaborator creates content and curates yours while at the same time consuming whatever you put out. A creator will curate and consume, a curator will also consume and a consumer just consumes.

So, how do you walk the people of your community up the ladder? First, you must aim to achieve three different types of connections. They are:

  1. A connection between your community and the people of your business.
  2. A connection between the people of your business.
  3. A connection between the people in your community.

Most businesses stop at the first, but in reality the most important is the connections you create between the people of your community, which is where rampant word-of-mouth starts, and is best created through collaboration.

I’m a huge fan of businesses supporting social causes, I’ve written about it time and time again. While there are many reasons why you should, one of them is that most people find your business boring. They have no reason to connect with you because they aren’t passionate about your brand. But, by connecting your business, better yet, the people of your business to a cause that both they and the community are passionate about you are better able to move people up the ladder from consumption to curation, to creation and finally to collaboration.

You do that by posting pics of your employees participating in the cause on your Facebook page, whatever it happens to be. That will get people who normally consume to start clicking like and will maybe even get them to share your pictures. Again, this must be something that they are passionate about but with a little work you can turn a consumer into a curator. From there start asking questions, again surrounding something that they are passionate about, on the picture. Remember if they clicked like Facebook will send them an alert if there are comments (if they haven’t turned them off).

An example would be you posting a picture of your employees playing with kids at a foster care picnic you are hosting (remember to put a caption on the picture, don’t just post it). That will get a ton of likes, then you can ask the question, “How far would you go to see one of these kids smile?” You will be surprised at the comments on that one! It’s all about baby steps and the more pics you post the more your consumers will step up and like, ask the engagement questions and your curators will start to create content. You must plan for this, it doesn’t just happen.

So, how do you get people to collaborate? First, you must state your cause. I’m not talking about something you stroke a check for but something you are involved with, something that you and the people of your business are passionate about. From there rally the community around it, ask them questions like, “what do you think we can do to help the under-privileged children in our community?”

It all starts with a conversation, a collaborative effort between you and the community to fix an issue that people are passionate about, and who isn’t passionate about children? From there ask for volunteers, get people involved, have them come to your place of business and sit in on a committee to discuss the issues and what can be done to fix them.

You know the old saying, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail? This holds true when working towards collaboration, you have to plan the steps, the actual things you are going to do, step by step, to move people up the ladder. Quick question, how are you creating collaboration?


  1. Marilyn Anderson on April 7, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Great points, very well made, Dave. It also clarified for me why the best experiences in my life have been – hands down – Collaborations.

    I look forward to reading more….and moving up your ladder, too.

    • David Johnson on April 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm

      Thank you Marilyn, I appreciate you stopping by and dropping a comment! And look at that, you’re no longer just a consumer! lol

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