Just a few years ago, the word “engagement” meant diamond rings to most of us. Today, that word represents a sort of business to business marketing nirvana: the ability to develop an ongoing, mutually beneficial dialogue with your clients, customers and prospects.
While that may sound daunting, there’s good news. With the dramatic increase in online outposts, it’s never been easier to identify your potential advocates. Now it’s just a matter of recognizing how to leverage that opportunity. You need to “SELL” yourself:
Start by listening:
- Identify 3 business objectives that will benefit from online marketing efforts
- List 10-15 thought leadership topics that reinforce your objectives, use as initial search terms
- Research where “they” are, using a combination of free and paid search tools. Bookmarking tools such as Digg or Delicious offer great clues and a “running start.”
- Listen to what your targets have to say. Listen longer and harder than you want to.
- Start to understand the different character types involved in your dialogue, including traditional journalists, citizen journalists, bloggers, disgruntled customers, “C-suiters,” potential customers and average Joe’s
- Flag potential friends for your dialogue, including “friends of friends.” For many in B2B companies, the time has come to think of consumer needs, too.
- Stop and think – is the current conversation what you expected? How is it different? Will your initial topics still work for your content? Do you have idea “gaps” that need to be plugged?
- This effort will draw on people from almost every part of the company, from IT to HR to Marketing to Operations. Work out who will be the front line thought leaders and who will be their support ecosystem.
Establish common interests:
- Evaluate where your audiences prefers to live, including prioritizing outposts
- Create several composite friends that “flesh out” who you’ll be interacting with. What is their title? Job experience? Industry? Age? Interests? Likes & dislikes? Level of technology sophistication? What would their ideal friend share with them? In short, how can your company be helpful to them?
- Map out rough editorial calendar that offers realistic frequency, story angles for interaction
- Build an RSS reader that streams your audience’s priority blogs to your desktop. Get acquainted with what they care — and don’t care — about. Particularly look for triggers for commentary and sharing.
- Don’t talk about yourself or your company, talk about what matters to your friends.
- Pick out a time of day to be visible, ideally when your influentials are likely to be online. This is often first thing in the morning. Book 15-30 minutes daily or load content in advance.
- Comment on highly trafficked blogs, ideally at least once a day.
- Think twice before you put the same message on multiple networks. Only “cross post” when it makes sense. Otherwise, you’ll become boring “spam.”
- Respond every time someone contacts you, the good and the bad. Every single day.
- Make sure your content matches audience needs. After spending time with them, will these stories excite them? Move them to action? Get them to become repeat visitors? Immediately change your social media strategies if necessary.
Look for favors after you’ve earned credibility:
- Before a significant launch, agree internally on what you want your friends to do. Download a white paper? Vote in a poll? Subscribe to your blog? Typical beginner’s mistake = thinking that “we want them to buy stuff.”
- Ensure your content and website funnels toward your social media “calls to action.” Hint: make it easy for your fans.
- You can (humbly and infrequently) ask for a retweet, comment, link etc.
- Approach professional contacts to help spread the word…but not often
- When possible, parcel out your big ideas. It avoids audience fatigue and extends impact.
- Stop at the right time.
- Continue to converse about ideas, stories and links that have nothing to do with you.
Love your audience, especially when they are not in sync with you:
- You wanted engagement. Now learn from it, even disinterest or failure.
- Keep giving and helping, always offering more than you get. People will notice and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
- Don’t give up. Look at your analytics and use those clues to improve the next project. This will take more time and bandwidth than you’d like.
- When momentum kicks in, resist the urge to check the “done” box. This is actually your opportunity to solidify your reputation.
- Build on your “lessons learned” to create even better thought leadership that deepens your new relationships.
A relationship doesn’t end. It’s a circle. In reality, you’ll constantly cycle through these phases, with your fans spread across the spectrum. Design programs that recognize and build on that reality.
What’s your best engagement success story? Or do you have a “failure” that wound up teaching you something even more important about your community?
To reach Elizabeth: