“Engagement” is everywhere. If we, as marketers, don’t engage our customers in social networks, we allow our competitors to enter into a dialog with them. So, we engage. But without a follow-up strategy, many marketers stumble and fall.
We all read the horror stories of big brands that were not prepared. A little smoke can easily burst into a raging fire on a social network — much like Nestlé’s recent Facebook problem, when its fan page was taken over by a negative comments from Greenpeace activists demanding the company stop buying ingredients from an allegedly anti-environment Indonesian company.
Many brands generate engaged consumers, but have little or no real strategy to manage or build upon that engagement. That’s why brands and agencies need to learn and practice the rules of engagement:
1. Social moderator: The social moderator is a key element in maintaining consumer engagements. If the consumer postings become too specific or too broad, other customers lose interest. Content balance is important, and analytical tools such as Omniture and Nielsen’s BuzzMetrics help gauge audience favorability toward such content.
2. Customer service: The CSR role is important. Whether consumer response to content is a resounding “Great!” or a disgruntled Bronx cheer, the moderator can choose to respond directly and/or pose a question to the group to raise more comments and interaction. That’s right, ask the audience, because they are going to give their opinion anyway. Transparency and timing are important, and if the situation is a bad one, you have an opportunity to act quickly and responsibly before it gets out of hand.
3. 15 minutes of fame: Almost everyone has a story to tell or an opinion to share. Don’t lecture. Become a part of the conversation and encourage participation. Polling the audience on any topic of interest is a smart way to get dialog moving when you feel it stagnate.
4. Give it up: Offer incentives, sweepstakes and special offers to keep consumers interested. You don’t always need a contest, since posting a new service or trial offer also piques interest. Social networks are an excellent way to move the needle on e-commerce, especially if integrated with mobile, because they can offer a limited number of good deals on product purchases. Some people expect giveaways and some don’t, but just as friends exchange gifts, you need to give.
5. Budget for it: While tools such as search, mobile, e-mail, site-specific display and others are great for building engagement, the follow-up tools are just as important. The budget needs to reflect the follow-up commitment to engagement.
6. Agency versus client roles: The role of the agency is better suited to handling the strategy and implementation of social fan generation, and the follow-up role in building a larger consumer fan base. Once the fans are engaged, the brand should lead in the day-to-day social voice and interaction. Yes, this is a controversial stance, but in reality brands must start to employ marketing people that understand “joining the social conversation.” We’re no longer in a broadcast age; we’re in a “conversation age.” Brands need to take part in the conversation.
7. Measuring ROI: The core metrics are still key to measuring success (CTR, page views, opt-ins, referrals and sales conversions). The main reporting challenge stems from ensuring all of these elements are being tracked through the many different reporting and analytics tools available today. Many enterprise-level reporting systems still cannot deliver a Facebook fan page’s performance, the growth of a Twitter account or how many times a Web page was shared via a social network. It’s important to check multiple sources for numerous stats for both in-campaign optimization and the final report. The new tracking is the measurement of shares and the online conversation.