What pops into your head when you hear the word engagement? How about value? Go ahead, really think about it. Don't worry, there's no right answer. But, there are some common themes, and a handful of right approaches to truly squeeze the most out of your network, your business, your contacts--no matter what field you're in--and channel and give it back to your community. Here's what real, valuable engagement is, and how you can increase yours.

1. Participation: Know what your audience responds to, and how best to serve that taste. That means following the influential players in your community. Find out what their interests are, who they chat with, what they're saying, and how you and your voice can offer value to those discussions. Now interact. Create a name for yourself by demonstrating your leadership. Once you've deciphered those first crucial steps, it's all about getting people to rally around projects and campaigns with specific beginnings, middles and ends. That way they can get involved with a detailed and clear understanding of what's expected. And something to revolve and work together on. Examples include everything from social back-and-forths on Twitter and Facebook to more altruistic crowdsourcing innovation revolving around news (think Reddit), to real-time tools on Google Maps (evacuation routes and resources in emergency situations). These tools brings us to our next tip.

2. Bringing Value Beyond Your Organization: Offer helpful, real content that the greater public will value--not just you. That means listening, synthesizing and processing what your community cares about and wants, and then figuring how best to serve that desire. If your community is based on food, for instance, literally serve them daily recipes of healthy meals on a blog or via social posts. Or if you're in the business of data and news, being a curator of the top need-to-know nuggets of knowledge make you a true thought leader. For inspiration, look at the social feeds of Renaissance men and women like Jack Dorsey and Jane McGonigal. They're both known for their specific, disparate roles, but their value is far beyond that because they get what their audience truly wants, and that's a little bit of everything.

3. Never Stop Innovating: If you can't master this step, forget everything. Sell the house, fire your staff, file for Chapter 11. Because at the speed that our globalized world changes, if you don't respect and change with it, you'll be left behind. Period. People are savvy to change, and they expect all the best companies to change with it--in fact, most expect you to lead that change, not follow. To keep you and your business attractive, you must work tirelessly to improve your platform, website, blog, social feeds, wherever you and your product live. Your community might stay on your platform longer, or use your product, if you improve their user experience. Offerings like social comments, real-time chats, personal profiles, and perhaps most important of all, value and champion customer service. User generated content and feedback are responsible for some of the most innovative, and unexpected product successes we have. User collaborations and input have influenced everything from books to toys. Way beyond just Indiegogo and Kickstarter, big brands like Quicksilver, Jamba Juice, and even pop-musicians like One Direction are turning to new crowdfunding services like Tongal and Talenthouse to create. The aim is to involve your audience, and letting them know you're there because of them--not the other way around. No matter where you are in the process, whether big or small, the more solid and authentic the relationship you create with your audience leads to an increase in engagement, and loyalty. That's what it's all about.