The new social media is all about relationships. We make friends online by sending and confirming friend requests. We poke our friends and delete enemies from our contacts list. We love to comment and like status updates and follow people. Indeed, we become strongly connected with one another through our interactions online.
Similarly, businesses thrive online by establishing, maintaining, and strengthening relationships with its customers, partners and even competitors. And at the heart of managing all these ties is a significant aspect of communication: engagement. In fact, it is only through engagement that organizations and their products and services meet the target public at a common touch point. When businesses are able to do this, real brand experience and customer satisfaction happen.
But how exactly does a company build and for that matter, sustain audience engagement? According to James Kellway on Engagement Building, there are three ways by which organizations build engagement:
- Content – build for focus and deliver on what is promised
- Calls to action – give clear choices and ensure relevance
- Context – build trust and credibility by using visual hierarchy
Businesses have to be reminded that engagement building is a perfect mix of these three Cs. When we want to establish ties with consumers, we have to offer them content anchored to a central message, something that is positioned in a context relevant to them, and one which gives them freedom for making choices. I believe that these 3 Cs can be made to work more effectively with a three-step strategy in engagement building which I would call The Three Is Model: Initiate. Influence. Involve.
In an initiate-influence-involve strategy, businesses go back to the core of a two-way communication between them and the customers. This speaks of no monologue. This is about conversations. Conversations, which due to the social media, are becoming more dynamic, participative, and essentially human.
An article entitled Connect the Dots captures this idea of engagement building in the Internet Age.
“ Our conversation with consumers and shoppers before is one way; we send them our advertisements and promotions. But we now live in a conversational culture because of the internet and what it’s allowed people to do. If you want to get to know anybody, you have to have a conversation with them. Shoppers and consumers want to have conversations with brands that are relevant to them. Much of this conversation is happening online. That’s where engagement starts. We’ve got to be able to bring that conversation back into the brand experience and back into the brand idea to refine it in a continuous feedback loop.”
All things said, we revisit two truths on engagement building as practiced by organizations. Relationships are about engagement. Engagement means conversation.