How to Build Your Customer Engagement Online

how to build customer engagement onlineMarketing today is different than it was a few years ago. A new paradigm for marketing has emerged with social media where we build relationships with with customers on a 1:1 ratio and focus our efforts on building customer share as opposed to market share. Market share is not necessarily a thing of the past but we have advanced through technology and shifting the focus from the masses to the individual customer. In order to remain competitive, we have to recognize that every customer is not the same within our target market and assessing and understanding the value of each customer will make  you invulnerable from the competition and eliminate brand switching.

Through social media we are able to communicate, engage and learn which is the 1 part of the ratio but the other 1 part is the customer investment in the brand. They are training brands as to what they want, the terms of how they wish to be engaged, spoken to, their expectations, how they make you the focus within their lives with their buying power. Seems a bit lopsided but yet it is not as the brand also has expectations of the customer. Through communication, engagement and dialogue the brand has the opportunity to lead or be led and create brand loyalists.

How to Build Your Customer Engagement Online

1. Identify Your One Thing. This has been said over and over but yet not widely practiced. One message is the key to traditional advertising as a TV and radio commercial or print ad to even have a chance at grabbing the attention of their audience has to have one single message. This is no different in engaging your customers online. If they are met with multiple messages which one should they even communicate to you with? Which one should they feel a comfort level with? In big brands like a Proctor and Gamble, they have a lot of products but yet they do not throw them all at you at once. Find your one thing and while you can introduce the other things, remain focused on your own thing that you do better than the competitor.

2. Be Your Customer. Your customer is not the masses, it is that one person at a time. Whether a small mom and pop shop or a big brand, you have to be your customer to know why they buy. Is it because it is cool and to be accepted we have to have it, it is economical, does it out perform the big brand? Be your customer so you can understand how to communicate and talk with them. Think how many times you have used your own brand, your employees have, etc. It is very easy to sit on that side but going over to the customer side is very different. Be your customer by talking to your brand, in a brick and mortar standing on the line and for online, try and buy from you to see what the customer sees.

3. Lead to Grow. Growing the brand through leadership through guiding them online. Give them some direction as to what you want them to do as they are looking for you to do just that. A Facebook page that is filled with updates from people devoid of any brand interaction sends a powerful message to  a new visitor. Leading by being proactive and reactive though asking questions to evoke a experience generated response (we know that people love to share their experiences and incorporating your brand in an indirect way provides insight. If you are selling gum, ask people about their worst experience with gum on their shoes, in their hair or on a park bench that made its way onto their clothing. Why? You see the true experience and you can talk about how your gum is not to be left in places where it can get onto shoes, into hair, etc) , addressing negativity though avoiding a bash-a-thon that we have seen with a big brand like Target where their FB page was overrun by users with no response from the brand.

4.  Monitor Terms and  Brand Mentions. The brand mentions is what generally most think of first as what are people saying about us, but what is equally important is the one thing/industry terms so you can be there before the sale. We know that on Twitter people will post a frustration with X or does anyone know how to do this? Or the pleasurable experience or the rant of a bad one. People/customers are not shy as we are seeking answers and monitoring is your chance to swoop in and be helpful. Gain that trust to be top of mind and create a dialogue that will lead to a conversation.

5. Invest in Your Industry. Investing in your industry does somewhat go back to the one thing but it allows that broader scope. This is not necessarily monetary in the exchange of dollars but in the exchange of knowledge. Take part in industry chats on Twitter, support the leaders as they are creating a platform that you can grow upon. Sure they are not your customers most of the time but they are referral agents. Embrace the industry and invest as this creates an opportunity for growth.

6. Helping as a Reward. Helping people that you find through monitoring is not a gimme open hand. Look at it as trial run of sorts. If you help solve this problem and the next time they are in need, who will be top of mind? Sure there are some that are the pick your brainers that will not ever see you as a paid for your help but there are the others that through the communication, dialogue and engagement that will be or know someone that is. Social media is not an instant, it is an investment into your brand and your potential customers.

Building customer engagement online is about communicating, dialogue and engaging. As a brand you have to be more committed than you want your customers to be. You want them to talk but yet are you really allowing them to lead or are you guiding them? In an ad we guide them as we put out one message and ask them to listen and take action but online why do we give them free reign?

photo credit: Trevin C

  • Loved this post, you make very valid points. I think it’s particularly important to find the really important messages you want to convey to your users, and base your strategy on them, striving to always show the human side of your business rather than the corporate side. I think there is the right place and time to show it (investors might not be interested in how chatty you are on Twitter), but definitely not in online interactions, for the most part.
    I believe if you put your customer at the center of your online presence, following the suggestions you give here among others, your road will aimed to success.

    • Gabriele

      Thank you so much. It is about putting your customers first before they even become your customers. Looking at who they really are and seeing how you can get to know even more. What makes you so much better than the competitor that you are the chosen one in the grocery aisle? Taste does play a role with food and performance with many other products but people stay when they are met with a brand that they feel cares about them and is available to help them.

      Great to have you here commenting and sharing your thoughts.

  • I think this is one of the biggest issues businesses and people have even myself. It is difficult for us to focus only on one thing especially in the different environments we work with.

    Also being your customer is key. My biggest disappointments as a customer have mostly been related to a lack of understanding on the other side. The other day I wrote a post related to my frustration after being a Sprint Brand Loyalist for many years on how they really did not care of my situation. Sprint seems to have no interaction online with its customers or even brand loyalists exposing it to be the next Nestle or Target.

    I think the best experiences have been when a brand has helped me accomplish something. One who I have had multiples experiences with helping me online has been @Jetblue they really follow through and do everything possible to help you out.