Brand marketing has focused on advertising reach and frequency since its inception and thus brand managers tend to speak at consumers rather than with them. With the blossoming of social media marketing the art of conversation comes squarely into focus because not all interactions are created equal.
There is a reason why millennials are flocking away from print in droves and into digital media and it is mainly because of the way the content is packaged. On one hand you have yesterday’s stories, press releases and obituaries and on the other you have breaking news, immediate feedback and trending commentaries from friends.
As much as they use the web to keep tabs on global and local events, they appear to be more interested in their immediate environment and their peers’ reactions to unfolding events. Another observation is their need to be part of the drama, to express their views and create or share content that comes together to form the whole story.
The emerging trend relates to audiences skimming the web and reviewing what they deem important, so you find them reading the headline, the first paragraph and then skipping to the bottom to read the comments made by others. This emphasises the fact that they care about how other people are reacting to current issues and then adding their voice to the ongoing debate.
For marketing executives to fully grasp the opportunities created by the changing culture, they should consider the techniques used in public speaking where an issue is framed in the context of what the audience cares about. Without injecting stories that people care for, and connecting them to issues that have emotional meaning, then your presentation will fall flat and fail to generate a desirable response.
Dale Carnegie in his book How To Make Friends And Influence People gives solid advice in this area. He indicates that if you want people to really like you then you should encourage them to talk about themselves and the things that really matter to them, and when this happens they will not only be grateful, but they will also feel that a bond has been created. Continue on this path and that bond will be strengthened and become difficult to sever.
So, if our fundamental goals for social media are to gain visibility and trust, generate engagement, and ultimately achieve customer advocacy, then we should incorporate the art of the conversation into our strategy and give it the time it deserves to mature successfully. Remember that Rome was not built in a day.
Get to know your customers intimately and understand the audience segmentation in order to serve stories that will touch their hearts and minds. In the beginning, it is necessary to offer small incentives for participation and to encourage the habit of sharing on your platforms and around your content.
The next step will be to work with the influencers within those communities, and again, offer incentives for their participation in ways that are aligned to the social media engagement strategy and the brand values.
Finally for the grand prize, namely customer advocacy, bring in the big guns through gamification and major reward schemes that drive engagement to a frenzy and creates the kind of awe that turns customers into brand ambassadors.