Social Does Not Equal Dialogue

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Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

From early on, social media marketing has been equated with conversation. We’re told we need to have a dialogue with our customers. Yes, social is about dialogue—but it should be about more than just that. In the offline world socializing is about more than just talking.  It’s time to expand our definition of social media in order to improve both our marketing and our customer’s experience.

Sure, social media is about talking

Of course, you do a lot of talking when you socialize. It’s a big part of how we build relationships. So it’s an important part of the online story, as well.  But should you implement a strategy based solely on talking with your customers?

Studies show that most people aren’t looking to talk with brands and actually getting engagement in the form of comments from customers is hard. But, people do want to talk with one another, particularly with their own friends and family or with other people who share their interests.

Challenge number one: Instead of focusing on conversing with your customers, focus on how you can help your customers converse with one another. Ideally, that conversation is about your product or brand, or it’s in your product or brand space.

Social media is about image

How come we don’t spend our day in our pajamas, with our hair un-brushed and our faces unwashed? Aside from teenagers at the height of their beauty, most of us don’t venture out to Starbucks in our PJs. We dress, we put on makeup, we primp and perfect.  Why? Because we care about the impression we make. We want to look good. We want to be perceived a certain way, and where we can control the impression we make, we do so.

The same is true online. As I blogged about in “Want to engage me? Make me look good!” one of the best ways to engage with customers is to give them opportunities to make the impression they want to make online.

Challenge number two: Find ways to make your customers look good online, while also showcasing you or your business.

Relationships are built on shared experiences

This is one of my husband’s favorite sayings, and it’s true. We grow closer as we spend time together and experience things together. Attending events, playing games, having meetings, even terrible or scary experiences build bonds. Google Hangouts are an example of a social media feature that can be used to build shared experiences. Online gaming or IMing/tweeting with friends while watching a TV show are other examples of shared, online experiences.

Challenge number three: Can you find ways to create shared experiences with or for customers, built around your brand, products, or messaging?

Empathizing, sympathizing, helping

One of the biggest ways that we build and sustain relationships is being there when times are tough. We empathize with our friends, sympathize with them, and we help them. People like to help. You might have ways that customers can help you and feel good about it. Certainly, if you’re a non-profit, you can provide opportunities for people to help. It’s an obvious social media method. If it doesn’t make sense for your customers to assist you, can you provide ways for them to connect, commiserate, or help others—especially those in their own network?

Challenge number four: Provide ways for customers to empathize, sympathize, and help you or each other, using your brand or presence as a platform.

Building together

Another frequent way that we grow closer is to work together, to build or create something. Ever been on a church or school committee? I bet you made friends through that experience. Work parties, volunteer work, family projects, they all are ways that we socialize, make new friends, and deepen existing relationships.

Crowdsourcing is an obvious and familiar example of working together online. However, it’s not always done in a way that really facilitates relationship building. Online fundraisers where friends, fans, or followers spread the word can provide an online bonding experience.

Could you provide ways for your customers to build something together? Can they riff on your commercials or videos? Could they contribute ideas or content? Could they work as teams to accomplish an online task in order to win something? Could they build something for pleasure, recognition, or for practical use?

Challenge number five:   Give customers an opportunity to build something together with you online, or incorporating, using, or benefiting your brand or product.

Five examples of being social beyond dialogue. Five opportunities to engage with your customers in fresh ways.  Are you up to the challenge?

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