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Modern Marketing: The Courtship of Your Customer

November 2, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Evanne Schmarder

Not too long ago I was visiting with a state association leader and the topic turned to social media marketing. He’s well aware of Facebook and wants a presence on this growing network. I couldn’t have agreed more. And then he said this: “We just have to find time to build the Page.”

Cue the screeching tires. To the untrained eye “build it and they will come” seems a reasonable expectation. After all, our websites are souped up with (Search Engine Optimization) SEO-rich keywords and phrases. Google AdWords, using those same keywords and phrases, deliver clicks. Even directory ads – most likely promoting the very same keywords and phrases – have gone digital. But social networks are different. They require a pesky little thing we call “engagement.”

Simply put, this means that we are building relationships, courting customers, developing a community and continuing a running conversation. Simply developing a Facebook page or a Twitter account does not equal a “presence.” Instead, it’s just one of thousands of business accounts that the public may or may not run across.

What Exactly is Engagement?

Social media networks are just that, social. In a nutshell, engagement is interest in your fans/followers and interaction at every level.

Think about it like a party, conference, trade show or networking event. To begin with, for any value to be realized you must show up. Even the most brand loyal customer, best friend or business organization will eventually fade away if you don’t respond to their advances.

Whether you are eager to develop a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social site, it’s important to realize that setting up your digital marketing platforms is like accepting an invitation, registering to attend or purchasing a booth to exhibit.

To be successful you must take part, engage. The quality of online interaction parallels visiting face-to-face. It is a conversation between you, your customers, prospects and peers.

You most likely would not attend a social function and cross your arms, appear uninterested in everything around you and stand in a dark corner. In the same vein, you would not approach others with non-stop sales talk, pushing your product, political views or opinions.

Instead, you might connect with others at the party or event in the context of commonalities, perhaps your business, industry or mutual friends. For example, in the outdoor recreation industry we might start a conversation about favorite types of outdoor recreation lodging, activities, where they’ve been, what they love to do, what works for them and what does not. We might talk about some of our experiences, history, recent happenings and funny stories.

Once in a while, we might mention our business and how it may interest and enhance the experiences of those we’re conversing with. In the social media marketing world that might equate to one sales-y message or post for every three to four conversational posts. To sum it up, you’re caring and sharing, not shilling and selling.

Popping the Question: 10 Ways to Get Your Customer to Say “Yes”

Success as a digital marketer is not, by any means, rocket science. Instead, it’s getting a feel for your audience, making an effort to connect and being real. To that end, below are 10 musts of every successful social media program:

1. Show up. The phrase “build it and they will come” only applies to the field of dreams. If you think that by simply posting a profile, customers will flock to your business, then you really are dreaming.

2. Research what’s being said about your business, your industry, your competitors and your guests’ experiences. Use those to begin to shape your message. Don’t jump in with something irrelevant, uninteresting or sales-y. It just won’t work.

3. Avoid “get fans/followers fast” schemes and build your following organically. If your audience is not really interested, then engagement is impossible. They just aren’t that into you.

4. Cultivate relationships via conversation and engagement. Find ways to interact. Reward your loyal fans/followers. Make them feel special and valued.

5. Post interesting and relevant information on a regular basis. Think of it as keeping in touch with a far away friend or business associate.

6. Enlist social media help if you must, but please, please make sure they understand your industry and business. Just because they know how to use a Facebook page does not make them an expert in outdoor recreation or your customer base.

7. Respond to each and every comment and mention – even if it’s a simple “thanks, good to know” or “how can we help?”

8. Don’t shy away from digital marketing because of the fear of negative comments. Studies show that these are golden opportunities to build your brand, win back a dissatisfied customer, reinforce what you stand for and solidify customer loyalty. And let’s face it, just because they aren’t talking about you on your social network does not mean that they aren’t talking about you.

9. Be honest, authentic, sincere and passionate about your topic. Believe me, it shows.

10. It’s not a campaign; it’s a conversation that takes place before, during and after a sale, reservation, visit or offline connection. Social engagement is ongoing. See rule number 1.

Evanne Schmarder is the creator of the RV industry’s first Digital Marketing Workshop at www.DigitalMarketingWorkshop.info. She’s also the owner of Roadabode Productions, outdoor hospitality communication consultants specializing in social media consultation, seminar facilitation and educational presentations, SEO copywriting, business writing services, newsletter production, and public relations and the producer and host of the RV Cooking Show. Contact Evanne at evanne@roadabode.com or (702) 460-9863 or visit her online at her B2B site, www.Roadabode.com, or her B2C site, www.RVCookingShow.com.

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