Wednesday, June 25

Having Engagement Problems? Make Your Audience The Content

It doesn't matter what study you look up. Marketers always struggle with the same measurements — engagement, lead generation, and sales. They aren't the only ones. Americans feel miffed too.

According to a recent Gallop poll, a clear majority of Americans say social media has no effect at all on their purchasing decisions. A whopping 62 percent say social has no influence over them.

Even when respondents were broken out by age, not much changed. Forty-eight percent of Millennials said that social media had no influence over them (43 percent said it had some).

Consumers are influenced by social media, but it has to be good.

The good news is that the consumer survey by Gallop doesn't prove much. Americans have said much the same about advertising for years. It's not a lie per se, but they are genuinely mistaken.

We don't always know which bits of information are from friends or pass through marketing messages. The same can be said for social and cultural shifts too. You would be surprised how many come from outside of the country before they are shared by Americans inside the country.

On the other hand, most marketers are still only marginally adept at social media because they tend to start out with the wrong intent. They are too "sales" focused, which generally produces a social media campaign akin to celebrating itself online. Nobody wants to visit a social page for push messages.

"How are you? Let's talk about me." It's true. Marketers don't use those words verbatim, but that is what most of the messages become. It's common for many social media experts to let you leave a page but not without pounding you to subscribe to an e-newsletter first. Never mind the risk associated with more studies that are veiled attempts for lead generation a.k.a. permission to spam lists.

The problem with all of it is pretty clear. If the intent is all about sales, then you can't expect the method to magically produce engagement. It's mostly the other way around. If the method produces engagement, then it is very likely the organization will experience incremental sales growth.

If you want better engagement, make your audience the content. 

This simple answer is only slightly deceiving in that the execution is complex. It's complex because every audience or public or group of people or whatever you call them have very different needs.

If you simply run from one organization to the next organization with a cookie cutter solution (or one stolen from a best practices SlideShare deck), people won't care about your content. The reason they won't care is because content creation that aims for engagement is not the same as content created for an editorial calendar. The content people want to read has to be about them, directly or indirectly.

What does that mean? Sometimes the answer can be exceptionally direct — a professional membership organization that focuses on its members and upcoming events (where members meet up) has a great opportunity to develop a vibrant community. Sometimes the answer is less direct — an organization that wants to establish itself on the cutting edge of an industry will seek out innovation (even if it is not their own). And sometimes the answer is in between — an event that brings together hundreds of authors and book enthusiasts makes it easier for the two to connect.

"How are you? Let's talk about you." It's the message that really matters. People mostly don't want to know about your organization, but they may want to know who attends your events. People mostly don't want to know about your program, but they may be fascinated by the advancements being made in the industry. People mostly don't want to know about your product, but they might want to know how to fix a problem or make their lives easier. If it happens to include your product, service or position, then it's win-win. Sales tend to be a by[product of doing everything else right.

In other words, maybe it's time to throw out your elevator speech and work on a deliverable instead. How can you better bring a concept, conversation, or community to your customers that they can actually be part of and care about? Good. Go do that. And once you do, never put it on autopilot.

What do you think? Isn't engagement what made the earliest forms of social media fly? People wanted to connect and the medium helped make it possible. The comments are yours.
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