Advertising, Marketing

Light up your engagement strategy with sincerity

Another marketer talking about engagement?

::Audience slowly files out of room::

WAIT! Don’t leave just yet.

Yes, I know. “Engagement”, in some ways, has surpassed its 15 minutes of fame. There’s a reason why we keep talking about it though – it works. But only when executed correctly. And that’s where so many companies continue to struggle. Continue to unknowingly struggle. Are you one of the many who is struggling in ignorance?

Potential light bulb moment ahead.

To develop a truly successful online engagement strategy, more companies need to think of engagement in terms of stages. True engagement continually cycles through the following three stages, to create a “circuit” of sorts:


In my observation, too many companies believe that by achieving Stage 1, they’ve successfully “engaged” their audience. Well, yes, and no. Without reciprocity – Stage 3 – you’re essentially just leaving your audience hanging, and the circuit is incomplete.

But there’s another layer to consider, and without it, even a full circuit engagement strategy will fall miserably short.


If you’re not engaging like you mean it, don’t even bother with Stage 1. You’ll never move beyond it. Think of sincerity as the conductor to your engagement circuit, facilitating the electrical flow.

Sincerity is one of those terms that is often used, but hard to define. My personal definition of sincerity is simple: Honesty of heart and mind.

For decades, psychologists have strived to pinpoint exactly what factors help us determine the true sincerity of another person. Tonality? Non-verbal indicators? Eye contact?

The answer appears to point to something more visceral in nature. Sincerity, as described by Husni Adnan:

“Sincerity is like a black ant on a black rock in the darkest night. It exists, but is very difficult to see.”

What determines sincerity is a “feeling”, and as a human race we’re all fairly good at sniffing out insincerity based on gut alone. It’s like your very own little red “I Call Bullshit!” button.

So then, how do you prevent your audience from pressing that little red button on your online engagement strategy? Express sincerity by being authentic, emotional and transparent.


Stay true to who you are. When you engage your audience in ways that don’t ultimately tie back to your brand’s reason for being, you’ll eventually muddy your identity and lose your audience. A beauty product company that “engages” by asking, “How’s the weather where you are today?” will likely garner responses, but long term, how is this type of engagement of value to their audience?

Finally, it may go without saying, but we can all benefit from this friendly reminder – be cognizant of word choice and tonality. Ensure every tweet, status update and post is reflective of the overarching voice of your brand. For example, if Taco Bell’s tweets suddenly started referencing Shakespeare (in a non-sarcastic, serious way), you better believe I’d be reaching for my little red button.


When someone is being sincere, you can feel the emotional undercurrent. When strong emotions are evoked, it compels action, propelling you from Stage 1 to Stages 2 and 3. Take for example TD Bank’s “Automatic Thanking Machine” campaign. If you haven’t seen the heartfelt video yet, grab some tissues and view it here.

After watching the video, I was moved to tears by TD Bank’s sincere acts of kindness toward their customers. I was so moved that I was compelled to express these feelings to TD Bank. I sent them a tweet, to which they soon responded in a personal and light-hearted way:


I now follow TD Bank on Twitter. And, just like that, TD Bank moved me through all three engagement stages, fueled entirely by the emotional component of sincerity.


Allow your audience to see through your brand – the good AND the bad. Remember how being transparent completely revitalized the Domino’s brand? The “Oh Yes We Did” campaign was absolutely revolutionary in that never before had we seen a company so publically address their shortcomings. Transparency is synonymous with honesty, which is at the heart of sincerity. Let your audience in, and they won’t want to leave.

Is your company engaging beyond Stage 1? Stage 2? Or, are you dealing with a broken circuit? Conduct with sincerity, and watch your audience truly light up.

Photo Credit: Wired UK


Cassie D’Arpino is a freelance Marketing Communications & Strategy Specialist, helping brands better connect to their audiences in meaningful, emotional and effective new ways. Her experience prior to working as a freelancer includes six years in strategic planning and senior account service at a shopper marketing agency in Kansas City, Missouri. Cassie received her MBA from Missouri State University, and currently resides in Springfield, Missouri with her husband, Steve, Pekingese puppy named Bella, and two Persian cats, Garfield and Cubby. She is a lover of Sriracha, a neuromarketing nerd, and obviously, a fan of animals with short snouts.

For more marketing musings and random reverie, follow Cassie on Twitter: @Cassie_DArpino




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