For brands, engaging a consumer should be a lot like an ogre. OK, for those of you who haven't seen "Shrek," or just don't get the reference, orges have layers, kinda like onions. There are layers to engaging a consumer. Just because digital allows for direct response, doesn't mean marketers should start acting like a teenage boy on prom night and trying to skip straight to closing the deal, because that's a great way to end up nowhere... umm ... with consumers.
In all seriousness, just because the digital medium allows for direct response and connection to consumers, doesn't mean marketers' messaging should lead with their end goal. Somehow it became "common knowledge" that whatever your key metric is should be your first "ask" of the consumer.
If you want likes/fans, give people a reason to connect with you. You want people to click to your Web site, tell them what they are going to find. Want people to download your coupons -- well, why should they? Want people to register for your program -- better give them a lot more information.
There is a natural flow to how marketers should engage consumers both in digital and traditional marketing. How many commercials start with "call now!" What am I calling for?
When marketers ask a consumer to take any action toward connecting with them, it's best to follow a process that engages the consumer, allowing her to discover and perform lighter interactions before you make a bigger request. Thus, the consumers who do connect will be more qualified, and in many cases marketers will be able to get an even greater quantity of qualified consumers to take bigger steps toward connecting and sales. This is because qualified consumers that might be turned off by initially being asked to fan/like/register/email/call/click will commonly be willing to do some smaller action, which gives the marketer a chance to make a case why the consumer might want to take the next step.
There's a lot of debate around the value of a fan/like. I can tell you for certain a lot of the value of a fan/like depends on where that fan comes from. The same is true for registrations, clicks and any other key performance metric you might have. Volume does not equal qualified volume, and sometimes even the things marketers do to optimize volume of a key metric might be hurting them.
So take a big step back, and put yourself in the consumer's shoes. How are you engaging consumers with your digital programs? They might not be willing to jump into your bed just yet, but how can you ask if they might want to hold hands?