There's no shortage of talk about engagement in marketing circles, but really honestly engaging with people (not just customers, but any target audience) is a lot harder than most of us are willing to admit. It takes real work. It takes creativity. It takes a sincere desire to understand the people whose influence can elevate your brand. And, critically, it takes a commitment to create social content that resonates with the personalities you're trying to reach.
At the start of the social gold rush, the prevailing attitude among businesses that "got it" was that we just needed to get in there and join the conversation. Social media strategies focused on figuring out ways to crank up follower counts. Quickly, though, savvy brands realized they needed to do something more, and there are now -- happily -- hundreds of companies out there creating genuine, mutually valuable relationships with their customers on the social web through thoughtfully executed strategies that reward customer interaction.
While there are undoubtedly some major differences between managing a company's relationship to its customers and managing your own interpersonal relationships, the basics of both are pretty similar. Here are four fundamental social principles to consider before you launch a social campaign. (And if you're already on the social web, they should help you get more traction from your efforts.)
1. Be a Good Listener
It's always awkward walking into the middle of a conversation. And for brands on the social web, it can be disastrous. Using social listening tools like Radian6 or Sprout Social to monitor ongoing chatter about your brand and competition can prepare you to act strategically from your very first post. This may sound simple to social media pros who represent prominent brands, but small businesses more often tend to leap onto Twitter without really looking at what they're getting themselves into. Effective social listening tools can cost less than $10 a month and save you the potentially costly embarrassment of a social misstep on the web.
2. Be Self-Aware
Knowing what people really think of you (by being a good social listener) can sometimes present a little shock to your ego. Because chances are, if your brand is having any impact on your customers, at least some small portion of that impact may not be entirely positive. After all, almost every company has its share of disgruntled customers. So what do you do once you've heard the feedback? A little soul-searching.
Case in point: Domino's Pizza had taken a bad rap for years over the quality of its food. And when a YouTube video emerged showing two employees doing disgusting things to customers' food, the got an earful from the pizza-buying public. But rather than close its ears to criticism, the company got serious about social media, apparently tightened up its management practices, revised its offerings, and came back with an ambitious marketing campaign that openly admits its past shortcomings (focusing on food rather than sick shenanigans) and shows customers that the brand has listened and changed.
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