customer experience; ecommerce, social media marketing

How to create engagement with social media? 5 Things you need to know.

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Compare the two situations above. In what situation would you feel tempted to ask a question or make a comment?  These pictures tell you at one glance why it is difficult to create engagement with social media. Research by Forrester  shows that interaction with followers is indeed low and even declining, regardsless all investments.

Last year, Instagram posts from brands created interactions with 4.2% of a brand’s followers. This year, that fell to 2.2%. On Pinterest, interactions fell from 0.1% to 0.04%.

Facebook, however, experienced an increase in brand engagement – 0.07% up to 0.2%.

What the pictures tell instantly is that most of us need a human size to be able to act. Let’s dive deeper into this topic to understand why social media are ineffective to create the engagement. I am convinced that customers want to connect and engage with us. They just want it done differently. What needs to change in our social media approach?

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1. Social media is not social

The common denominator in the social media is that they are publication platforms. You push your message into the world. The intention is not to get an answer, the intention is to get your message forwarded. I once did a class in Stand Up Comedian acting. Twitter and the other media remind me of this: you hear something 3264262523_33d140c50f_mand you immediately pass it on. You have no purpose, no expectation about what the next person will do with your text. The game is that someone extends the string with a new comment. If no one does the string breaks and you start a new one. It’s good fun.

Facebook is at this moment still the most dominant Social Network. The mission that made Facebook big is that it facilitated you to share personal things with friends at college. Research reveals that nowadays sharing personal things is the biggest threat felt by Facebook users (35%).  Only 10% updates their personal status on Facebook regularly. Most Facebook users stick to liking and forwarding messages. The best liked feature of Facebook nowadays is “Seeing photo’s and videos”. Only 16% of the Facebook users actually likes Facebook for getting feedback.

Customers want more. Customers have a mission. They intent to buy a complex product or service and have questions that need an answer. To facilitate customers in this, communication should become a dialog. Question and answer. Like a circle instead of a line. And once a customer is participant in a dialog, he will want to remain included till he has made his purchase.

2. Social media is an art

Social media have become important in marketing because they can make a message go viral. Reach is of key importance for social media marketing. Without reach, your publication was useless. How do you achieve reach?

10951906866_d52d2f911d_mSensation and entertainment have to be key elements for a message to go viral. It’s a joy to see how some people really know how to bring a message. Social media created a new type of artists. We have seen numerous examples. Limiting myself  to mention one I would like to highlight Bethany Mota. Her video blog is a good example that shows how the right performance can trigger success. It is a good example how to move from sharing content to creating an experience.

Now position yourself as customer. What is the meaning of social media if you are a normal person? What if you are only modestly funny and sensational, and you have a question you want answered? For customers social media is not a specialization, but just a means. Due to the enormous stream of messages their message will be overlooked. The number of followers does not necessarily mean much. Each message has to compete with the overwhelming stream that everyone receives daily. What are social media for you, when your message drops dead fast?

From the customer perspective reach is not important. What counts is to get information on demand.  People don’t want to have to step onto a podium to try to reach hundreds or maybe millions of people. They rather are facilitated with a small comfortable group of relevant peers. In small groups one will be heard when asking a question. When someone responds a dialog starts. The question can be asked without much presentation skills, though it will always be to your advantage when one can bring a message well.

We have done some tests on this. Our test consumers reported that the optimal size of a group is 5 to 10 people. This is not a surprise. A social psychology research demonstrated long ago that when there are many people overseeing an assault, no one will act. People remain inactive because everyone thinks someone else is in a better position to act. When people know there are only a few others, people feel addressed and respond.

Social media should thus facilitate that customers are aware that they are part of a small group of relevant peers. This will make them feel free to communicate their question or comment. This will also ensure that they will feel addressed by a question of another customer.

3. Facebook marketing is like bowling

Many companies are active with social media marketing, because social media are used as an entry portal for web shops. Facebook alone drive 22% of all website visits, Pintrest drives 5%, Twitter less than 1 %. The 1% of Twitter is still more the other social media like YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ etcetera together (source =  E-Consultancy). Social media are thus important in generating traffic to your shop. These figures are averages. Question is of course how these percentages are for your line of business. Especially simple and more emotion driven products will be successful on Facebook.
19331649063_e965086156_mThe impact of Facebook will stop the moment people get to your site, due to the platform switch. It’s like bowling. Once the ball is thrown, you can only watch it go. What you want is a social platform inside your shop. You want to be in control of the ball during the whole process.

We like to provoke you a little. Your Social Media Investments are totally inefficient. Based on the above data, 70% of traffic comes from other sources and is thus not impacted by your Social Media activity. But there is more. The data provided by the extensive analysis of SeeWhy of behavior of 600.000 customers, shows that only 4.3 % of shopping card traffic comes from Social Media sources. Social traffic is less inclined to buy something. But it’s gets even worse. They measured that social media traffic only counted for 2.11% of the total sales. So Social media is important in generating traffic (30%), but the share in sales is marginal.

What ecommerce needs is a platform that facilitates  shops to communicate with their customers during the orientation phase, the selection phase and during the closing.

4. Listening is gold

2706701983_dc3d66fb8a_mEngaging customers requires that they have the feeling they can contribute and that you will listen to them. Ecommerce is – in general – afraid for open customer feedback. “You never know what someone is going to say.” This attitude is not very productive nowadays. When they don’t tell you, they will most likely put the message on Twitter or another social medium.

Vocificate your site, meaning get the Voice of the Customer inside your shop. It’s a new term I invented to make clear that if you want engagement from your customers, your site needs to be theirs a little as well. You need to allow impact. You can consider that a threat or an opportunity. Knowing what your customer wants, gives you the opportunity to offer them exactly the right deal or service. The new ecommerce will need to dare to be open to customer feedback.

Getting engagement from your customer requires more. You need to be unique. You need to become an identity, otherwise there is nothing for them to engage with. When you have the social medium integrated in your site, this means it is centred around your shop. Such a social medium I like to call a Social Media At your Service (SMAS). Such a platform ensures that it is available in your shop only, so it creates an unique relation with your customers. What you give them, they can’t get anywhere else.

Add to this the strategy that you allow your employees to communicate freely and personally. Your site becomes human. This will strengthen the connection customers will feel towards your ecommerce shop. In this respect, ecommerce can learn a lot from retail.

5. Relevance

6090651389_71e6829503_mSocial media easily turn into a overwhelming stream of data. Information overload has become a general problem. When there is too much to read, you randomly pick some eye-catching messages. Facebook centres data around you and your ‘friends’. Twitter has the followers concept, next to the # for topics. Both platforms push ads. Any of these streams is too much to follow on its own, and most people participate in several platforms. They will miss a great deal of the messages. We have accepted that as normal. .

What is relevant to your customer? I think it is safe to assume the customer finds information related to his current activity very relevant. He wants information about mobile phones when he is looking for a mobile phone. Not when he is reading news or looking for a new fishing angle. Data clearly demonstrates this. For some time people have developed a blind eye for advertisement. Nowaday people even take action to avoid ads. This clearly is the consequence of the information overload that social media have brought us.

Next question is who are relevant to your customer? The current customer distrusts authority. Customers want to be in contact with other customers. Naturally that should be people who are investigating the same type of product or who have recently bought one. The information these people have and their opinion is relevant. The information you as shop share is relevant as long as it is considered open information. When you communicate on an open platform, your message becomes trustworthy.

Their is a second argument that makes communication in an open platform valuable for a shop. A message that is relevant to one customer, will most likely be relevant to the others in this group. This relates to Jay Baer’s Youtility concept. Your message needs to be truly helpful to get attention. Customers inside your shop are in need of information about your products and you probably have the information they need available. If you organise this will, you can have great impact for your customers.

You can help your customer to achieve a well based decision faster.

Conclusions

We started this blog with the statement “we need to change our social media approach”.  In this blog we have highlighted 5 important reasons why social media fail to create engagement with customers. To summarize this:

What is needed is a MICRO social medium.

You could argue that such a micro social medium misses the functionality to attract customers, because it is only available to customers who have already found your shop. That is however not true. The unique content will boost your SEO value as Google attributes high values to unique content that answers a customer question. We will address this topic in another blog article.

I am not arguing Facebook presence. It is important to attract traffic. Our position is that with a additional in-shop medium you can get much more result from it. Let’s position social media marketing in perspective though. Traffic of people that already know you (direct traffic and email traffic) are 90 % of the conversion. Social Media traffic is good for only 2 % of conversion. Where do you want to invest your next budget?

Facebook and Twitter happened to you. A micro social medium in your shop puts you in the driving seat. It’s your shop and you will turn it into a living community.

What do you think?

When you like the blog, you can do me a great favor by sharing it.

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With thanks to Flickr.com for all photo’s.

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