Engaging With Customers Online

One of the more overlooked elements of the modern customer experience is active and genuine engagement with the community you’re a part of.

Before the internet age, the only way to be a part of a niche community was to attend conferences, events, panels — the whole nine yards. Nowadays the game has changed. You’re able to connect with people from all around the world from the comfort of your own office or home.

Engagement has an end goal, and that end goal is sales. But long before you can up-sell or try to pitch in the first place, you have to be trusted in the community and offer valuable information.

But before we dive into the methodology of engaging with customers online, let’s talk about what it means to truly engage. 

Personalized, helpful and empathetic engagement is what matters. The days of mass emails and stagnant sales pitches are long gone. People are unique and so are their interests. That means customers are unique as well and sending the same type of messaging to waves of people just doesn’t work.

It also means that the contact you make has to be valuable. Any and all engagement you make should be making the customer’s life easier.

How to do this

Create your own

One of the best ways to actively engage with your community is to create or build your own. Building an online community is a very effective way to communicate with your customers for a few reasons.

One of the best ways to actively engage with your community is to create or build your own. Building an online community is a very effective way to communicate with your customers for a few reasons.

  • You’re in control of the community
  • You’ll be able to drive the conversation from the get go
  • You’re able to create a community on a platform of your choosing

Take the last point with a grain of salt. While it is advantageous to be in control of where your community lives, it’s important to know your customer base and meet them where they are comfortable and already communicating.

This means that if you’re consumers are primarily on LinkedIn, that platform will likely be the best place to create your community.

Forums aren’t necessarily dead, but they have succumb to the thriving nature of social platforms and the dynamic uses these platforms provide.

Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ have primarily been the best channels to create your own group and host a forward thinking conversation about your niche.

Partner up

Another successful way to engage with customers online is to co-host a group or forum with a complimentary brand. We love partnerships here at The Guerrilla Agency. We’ve learned that there are always pain points that co-exist between brands, but solutions that do not.

What we mean is that graphic agency may not offer web design, while a web design agency may not offer graphic design. Both of these agencies likely have similar clients but are unable to offer the full scope of their needs. This is where partnering comes into play.

Having an interdisciplinary community discussion can be mutually beneficial for all. Plus, both partners are able to bring in their own customer base to the discussion, widening the scope of the engagement.

Cooperative content creation

Creating content is always a great way to stir up engagement. When you do so, it’s important to actively engage with the community whenever possible. But there’s a way to expand your content’s horizons as well as your brand’s.

Finding a customer that you can reach out to, or one that has reached out to you, to co-create a piece of content is a great way to not only show that you listen to the customers, but create content that is truly customer-centric.

This can be for almost any piece of content, including: E-books, videos or even interviews. The list goes on for cooperative content creation.

Just be sure to reward those that participate. You can even make the content creation opportunity a contest! It’s a great way to stay actively engaged with the customers and reward them for their engagement. Plus, you get some great content in the process!

Stay active in existing groups

We talked about creating your own community, but there are plenty out there that have already been created. Platforms such as Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn…these are all great options for engaging with an existing customer base.

It’s a great way to share expertise or simply your appreciation for content or valuable information. Engaging means being a part of the conversation.

As easy as that sounds.

Don’t be that person that just says: “I love this!”

Sure, that may save some time if you’re jumping in and out of hundreds of groups. But it doesn’t actually hold any weight. Actually engage in the conversation — ask questions, provide answers, go in depth. Hallow engagement only makes you look shallow.

Make your content interactive

This doesn’t really take a lot of effort, and most of your content is probably already doing this. But be sure to allow commenting on your content.

This means that if you put out a blog, be sure to include a comment section. The same can be said for video content. If you’re active on YouTube — be sure to allow comments.

Once you’ve done this, it’s up to you to stay active. If someone comments on a piece of content, you must respond. If someone asks a question, you have to answer it.

If you’re looking to create truly interactive content, try out one of these:

Some content is interactive by nature. We personally believe this is going to be the future of content marketing.

Create advocates and partners

The main goal of engaging with your customers online is obviously to sell. But like we said, before you go selling you have to be communicating and adding value.

Once you’ve established enough trust and helpful information in the community you can create loyal customers and ultimately…advocates for your brand.

Once a partner becomes a loyal advocate or a trusted partner, they’ll in turn engage and communicate their own support effectively online alongside you. It becomes a snowball effect where the supporters you created from your engagement efforts also create supporters from their engagement efforts.

This is your end game. You’re looking to grow roots in your niche to sprout engagement that is self sustaining.

Engaging with customers online the right way is how you will increase your brand’s legitimacy, reach new customers, create loyal advocates, and increase your ROI

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