This post originally appeared as a comment in response to a post written by Mitch Joel. Mitch asked readers to provide thoughts on what it takes for marketers to listen, engage and connect in today’s world. The two people who submitted the best responses, selected by Mitch, won complimentary tickets to the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit. I was fortunate to be selected (my answer was ranked third but one of the other winners wasn’t able to attend).
Several keys come to mind which should be considered.
Recognize that social media is about people.
Companies need to have the right people in place, whether in marketing, communications or customer service, with appropriate skills and education on social media best practices. These people, on the front lines, are essentially the face of the company – they should be both empowered and trusted when engaging with customers. Enable people (your customers) to like your people (your employees) and thus your company.
Spend time learning.
Given the nature of the rapidly changing marketing and communications landscape, continuous learning is a necessity for people at all levels – so that a company’s employees are well-poised to listen, engage and connect. Marketers should regularly spend time reading social media and technology blogs and books, as well as occasionally attend conferences (such as The Art of Marketing).
Understand that listening leads to engagement and connection.
Marketers should start by listening to their target audience, in an effort to understand them – their needs, their nuances, their language. Engagement should start once sufficient listening has occurred. However, any marketing outreach can’t just be about the brand. The conversation must be relevant and genuine from the perspective of the customer, and it must somehow add value. Marketers that focus first on listening and have customer-centric mindset, will have a better opportunity to establish true engagement and connection.
Be proactive and build relationships.
Related to the point above, marketers should be proactive in building relationships – both with key influencers and other people in the target market. Relationship-building can occur by commenting on a blog, interacting on a social network, or perhaps meeting in person at an event. Investing in a relationship can truly help at a later point, perhaps when an social initiative/campaign is being launched that could benefit from engagement of key influencers.
Provide great content.
Whether making use of a corporate blog, or sharing information through a social network, marketers need to invest time and effort in cultivating and curating content that is relevant and provides value to existing and potential customers. Time invested in listening to customers’ needs can truly pay off here, as insights gained can feed into the content developed. By becoming a trusted resource for customers, engagement and connection with customers will be enhanced.
Show that you care.
Simply put, a little recognition can go a long way. If someone mentions your brand in a positive light, thank them. If someone cites an issue or concern, ask them why and do what you can to help them – in a genuine and, ideally, expedient manner. You may not always be able to please everyone, but you certainly can earn a lot of respect by showing that you care. Again this goes back to listening, which provides opportunity for engagement and connection.