10/30/2012 11:30 EDT | Updated 12/30/2012 05:12 EST

Brand Engagement: Three Ways to Stay Ahead of the Curve


The most effective brands driving engagement are those who are able to be relatable, and those which use their social media channels to talk about things their audience cares about. When people feel they're touching on something that matters to them, they're much more likely to participate and give back. This rule applies to a dinner party conversation or major global brand alike.

But what will brand engagement look like in the future, and how do you stay a step ahead of trends?

1. Pay Close Attention to What "the Kids" Are Into

Young adults and teens are the tastemakers, citizens and customers of tomorrow -- and, depending on your market, your customers already. Take the time to understand what they're interested in, why it matters, and how that shapes their world view and influences their decisions. You don't need to run out and start listening to Justin Bieber but you do need to pay attention to overarching trends in order to help understand and predict future behaviour. If you can't keep up with young people now, you certainly will not be able to connect with them in 10 years.

2. Get App Happy

It's easy to stick to what we know; after all, we already know it, it's comfortable. With all sorts of different apps out there, how does one discern what's relevant and what's not? It all seems like a lot of work. Start experimenting with different apps and learn which ones your business can leverage to increase engagement and sales. It will help you stay up to date with how mobile trends are shaping customer experience and provide you with firsthand experience of how the apps work and what they can do. It's hard to explain why your company needs to start doing something if you don't have direct experience and understand the nuances of the technology.

3. Trust Your Sources

You don't need to subscribe to every single technology and social media resource out there but find a few that you like and stick to them. In order to see where things are going, it's important to have a grasp on what's happening now and you might be surprised at the ideas you come up with once you're inspired by what's happening. We like The Next Web, SocialFresh and TechCrunch. You may not become a tech genius overnight, but you'll definitely impress your colleagues with your latest knowledge of must-know trends in digital, not to mention an increased understanding of how they might affect your business down the road.

While there's no surefire way to know what the future has in store, there are definitely some ways to get a better feel for it, and they're not always traditional. Don't be afraid to use your imagination! Experiment with different things. One thing's for certain: the integration of technology into home and work continues to evolve and brands need to find new ways to fit into this convergence in a way that matters to audiences.

And if you're still a bit intimidated by how quickly things move, know that you're not alone, and the best way to feel in control is to keep learning.