A little less action, a little more conversation please

There is no doubt that technology is making it easier for brands to connect with consumers. Online platforms and more specifically social media have created an opportunity for brands to engage with consumers by building meaningful dialogue in a space that invites conversation, enables peer-to-peer interaction and ultimately drives word of mouth through brand advocacy. But are brands connecting with the tools that facilitate this conversation rather than engaging with the communities they create?
As individuals we would never turn up at a party uninvited and shout about ourselves to whoever listens. If we did we’d probably be shown the door before anyone even considered befriending us. In order to successfully engage with people online brands need to adhere to the same rules of engagement an individual would in this situation – establish a profile, invite conversation, gain respect and engage in the same way we would human-to-human. Brands need to join the community without invading it.

A recent Altimeter Report that investigated how 34 brands used Facebook marketing found that nearly half the brands they reviewed did not fully leverage social media features to harness brand advocacy and activate word of mouth. As a result, they have identified ‘8 Success Criteria for Facebook Page Marketing:
1. Set community expectations

2. Provide cohesive branding

3. Be up to date

4. Live authenticity

5. Participate in dialogue

6. Enable peer-to-peer interactions

7. Foster advocacy

8. Solicit a call to action

It’s fair to say that in many ways these are all attributes one would expect to find in any mutually beneficially relationship between two individuals on Facebook who trust and value each others opinion. Albeit we would not define them in exactly the same way i.e. ‘set community expectation’ is about being honest and open about what one can expect from a relationship, while ‘foster advocacy’ would be more along the lines of defending a friend’s reputation or speaking highly of their achievements.

Too often brands use online tools, like Facebook, simply for the sake of being there or as a tactic rather than considering them as just one element of online strategy that seeks to establish meaningful, long term relationships with relevant groups and interested individuals. If they truly want to engage with consumers and establish a meaningful, long term relationship that creates genuine brand advocates they need to be a part of the communities they seek to harness and add value to their discussions.

In short, social skills are essential if brands want to connect with consumers rather than simply being present on platforms they are using.

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