Want to engage me? Make me look good!

Girl looking at self in mirrorWhile marketers have been focused on starting a conversation, customers continue to profess and demonstrate their lack of interest in chatting with brands. Finally, I’m starting to hear social media mavens discuss the need for a more customer-centric approach.

Of course, many social media gurus think they’ve taken a customer-centric approach by encouraging companies to talk with their customers online. However, the conversation style of social media is still an approach based on what the marketer wants: an ongoing connection with the customer that they can leverage.

A truly customer-centric approach requires a clear-headed and honest evaluation of what the customer wants, putting yourself mostly aside. When companies do that, there’s one fairly consistent finding: customers want to look good online.

As users of social media, we are all constantly aware of the fact that we are “performing” online for an audience. Whether you’re blogging, commenting on a blog, posting on your Facebook page, commenting on someone else’s post, or just uploading a photo, you do so fully aware that others will see what you’ve put online. In fact, that’s the point!

We all care how we’re perceived. We all take some care to craft how we’re perceived. Even if we consciously try not to cater to our audience, not to let it affect us, just knowing that what we post will be seen by others affects our decisions.

For marketers, that means that the more you can help your audience look good to their audience, the more likely they are to engage with you. Research has shown that users are more likely to share positive and awe-inspiring content. Why? Because most of us don’t want to present ourselves as gripers, pessimists, negative, or depressed. We paint a happier picture online. What you share is who you are, online. When marketers provide their audience with content that paints a positive picture, people are more likely to share that content.

Positive, uplifting, or amusing content is only the baseline, though.

The real trick is to evaluate each of your social audiences in each of their communities, to see how they want to present themselves in that community. Then create a strategy that gives people the opportunity to present themselves the way they want–while building in methods to promote your business. You create a social offer. This is the win-win approach to social media.

So, next time a social media guru tells you that you need to engage with your customers, remember that engagement isn’t necessarily about conversing. It’s about making your customer look good.

(Oh, and here are some ideas for how to make your customer look good online.)

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