Your Customers Now Notice You; What Next?
When asked to define the concept of 'online customer engagement' what comes to mind are some very specific set of numerical measures. From a marketer's perspective, things like site visits, page views, time spent, search keywords etc are terms that are typically associated with engagement; and why not? These terms are highly relevant and will give companies a clear picture of how their brands have been received by customers. However, the actual exercise of first, establishing a relationship with your customers, and then maintaining it, can be challenging. Once this is achieved, then page views and website traffic will automatically follow. According to an eMarketer study, the primary reason why companies use social media is for engagement. It is well known that consumers who are more engaged with a brand tend to make a purchase; which is why marketers categorize engagement as 'high priority'. Research by our team at Position² shows that, for most brands, getting their customers' attention is fairly simple. As a marketer, you have managed to get your audience to notice you; now what?
- Breaking Down the walls of Inaccessibility: Setting up a blog or a Facebook page is a great first step; but there is more to engagement than simply allowing visitors to post comments or 'like' your page. In order to actually make your brand 'accessible' to users, it is important to a) post fresh content frequently b) link your social media page to your brand's landing page and c) have a social media CRM team constantly interact with and respond to customer queries, making them feel you can be easily reached.
- The Six Engagement Elements that Matter: A recent study highlights the six important needs of consumers who want to reach out to a brand; Feeling Valued, Trust, Consistency, Relevance and Control. These elements should be a starting point for any interaction a brand has with a customer, the study says.
- Respecting Customer Privacy: In a bid to connect and engage with customers, online marketers sometimes tend to overstep the privacy line. This may not go down well with customers who are frequent visitors to your social media page and could lessen the prospect of converting these 'casual visitors' to 'buyers'. However, this could be a 'catch 22' situation for brands that need to research about customers before attempting to engage with them. In situations like these, the best possible approach would be a) to ask only for the information required b) use it responsibly to provide value and c) avoid sharing information without customers' consent.
The search for a brand that satisfies the criteria for 'perfect customer engagement' almost always results in the 'Starbucks' name popping up. For Starbucks, the idea of engaging with fans meant more than just having a Twitter, Facebook and YouTube presence. By participating in conversations, launching the Starbucks Card Facebook application and responding to customers on its My Starbucks Idea site, the caffeine-giant has mastered the art of customer engagement.
While the above points give a basic idea of how marketers can extend themselves to their customers, let us look at what brands can do to add value to their relationship(s) with the digital audience.
Converting First Time Visitors to Customers
The elusive first-time visitors are sometimes overlooked by online marketers who are otherwise focusing on existing customers; nothing wrong in that. However, new visitors are a vital part of any business and represent huge growth possibility. Going by their typical pattern of fluttering from page-to-page and not categorizing them under 'customer material' would be a missed opportunity. Here's why we think first time visitors are important:
- Recent studies indicate that, for most e-commerce websites, new visitors account for 65% of all users.
- Every new visitor lost without a conversation is like money walking out of a proverbial door.
- First-time visitors are just 'one good campaign' or 'landing page' away from turning into loyal customers. Although that first sale is a tough nut to crack, once done, it much easier to sell the second, third, fourth and fifth time.
You have succeeded in driving them to your website and you have managed to get pique their interest. This brings us to the next step, which involves converting these first-timers into potential customers.
Work on that home page:
Research shows that only 23% of first-time visitors to your website scroll down the home page; which means most of them miss out on the important details that are located below the field. The solution? Put up the important product or service information on the most visible part of your website. This ensures a higher possibility of increasing revenue.
Tracking Visitor Traffic:
Tracking where your visitors are coming from, keeping a tab on the links they clicked etc by using media monitoring tools like Brand Monitor will help you collate that vital demographic data about your first-time visitors. If these new visitors fall under your target demographic, then pursuing them with marketing campaigns and messages is simply the next step.
Consider adding a Welcome Pop-Up:
Although many of us may not always like the idea of a welcome pop-up when visiting a website, this has been proven to massively increase the number of subscribers to a blog or website. For instance, Blue Sky Factory's Chris Penn increased his blog subscribers by a whopping 733% in just two months by adding a welcome pop-up.
A tried-and–tested formula for enticing new visitors. This will give the user a reason to get curious about your products and services.
Use the Grandfather Test:
If your grandfather is unable to navigate through your brand's Facebook page or blog, improving usability is a good idea. It is highly possible that a first-time visitor left without exploring further because of navigation issues.
Avoid the 'Brochures and Billboard' Approach
With almost every company having a Facebook page or Twitter presence these days, it is easy for your brand to go unnoticed in the social media blur. What further decreases the attention span of potential customers and keeps them from engaging is a networking page or website that resembles a brochure or a billboard.
Go Easy on the Sales Talk:
Your content should function as a compelling story line rather than simply look like a product brochure. A lot of websites focus only on selling the product or are flooded with offers to speak to a sales rep. This could keep away potential customers, who are also interested in the company in general and not just in purchasing a product.
Keep in Mind the Point of Social Media-To Connect:
The 'follow us on Twitter' or 'fan us on Facebook' formula is not always the best way to engage with your customers. This is akin to a billboard advertisement and does not have the 'personal touch'. The point of having a social media page is to engage with customers; and having a networking page that has 'billboard' written all over it and may not go down well with visitors.
Consumers can be Great Brand Ambassadors:
By recasting consumers as brand ambassadors, you can a) personalize your webpage and make it look 'real' b) make consumers feel like they are responsible for the brand's reputation and c) add meaningful content to you webpage, making it sound less like an impersonal marketing message. Pepsi, for instance, has successfully raised the profile of the brand by allowing their community to become co-authors of the brand narrative.
Creativity is the Key:
Perhaps it was Red Bull's interactive and cool Facebook page that won the company the title of the 5th most engaged social media brand (in 2010, according to Famecourt). The brand's social media team understood exactly what fans wanted. They customized apps and included unique content. Take for example their welcome tab, where non-fans are creatively encouraged to 'like' their page with an attention-grabbing image. Red Bull's out-of-the-box thinking not just increased their social media customer base, but also created an original and interesting experience while engaging with customers online.
When you Should Stop Talking about Yourself
Producing huge amounts of content, even great content, will not suffice anymore. There has to be some give and take. Instead of simply overloading visitors with product or service related information, sometimes you need to:
Talk less about yourself and more about your audience:
It is a good idea to include information on how your customers are using a particular product or service and their experience with your brand. This not only increases the credibility of your brand, but also ensures increased engagement.
A social media channel that is devoid of dialogue removes the 'social' aspect from it. Take an interest in the people you want to engage with. Several companies, including P&G, allow customers to participate in social conversations and engagement that would have not been possible had they just talked about themselves.
Focus on Select Channels:
Your online engagement strategy needs to be more than skin-deep. True engagement means complete engagement in the social media channels you decide to invest. Instead of simply posting the same information on various channels, without focusing on the engagement aspect, we recommend consistent participation in fewer, selected channels for better brand-customer interaction.
Keep it Simple:
While including a certain amount of company related content and information is necessary, it is crucial to keep it simple; this includes the number and nature of questions you ask. A list of 15-25 questions on your social media page is not something a prospective customer will look forward to. What you could do instead, is offer to answer their questions, reply to comments more often, and thank them for sharing your content with their communities.
Keep Yourself from Diving in:
It is not always the best approach to react immediately and get involved in conversations. Sometimes it is best to stay silent, listen and keep dialogue to a minimum. This will give your social media team enough time to think carefully before diving into a conversation.
Social media marketers who have understood the importance of online customer engagement know that it pays to engage meaningfully in the digital space; and by pays we just don't mean increasing sales or market share. The modern marketer's approach to engagement measures returns in terms of customer lifetime value, which involves cementing old relationships and establishing new ones. A solid customer engagement strategy plays a pivotal role in building brand awareness and generating customer good will, which ultimately translates into profits. While there is no single, concise definition of engagement, until now 'engagement' was looked at from the marketer's angle; however, this is gradually changing, with brands increasingly attempting to look at this from a customer's perspective. A refreshing change indeed!
We know that engagement always starts with the need to connect, after which it is usually goes silent or fizzles out. The challenge becomes 'what to do next'. A summary of our earlier discussion brings us to conclude that a well-rounded customer engagement plan is built on the foundation of content, dialogue and community growth. Irrespective of what engagement style a company chooses to follow, there are some ground-rules that need to be observed. A creative, yet simple, social media page that allows fans to feel connected with the brand ensures the start of a genuine brand-customer relationship; after all, relationship building is one of the main purposes of social media.