Do You Love Your Customers Enough To Follow Them Back?

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“We are a live, work, play company. When we first started using Twitter, it was a way we could stay connected while also helping our customers if they needed it.”

This quote comes in an article I shared about Zappos , the online shoe and clothing store. It says a lot to me about customer engagement. Here is an organisation recognising that social media presents an opportunity to stay connected. To engage with others. And to help customers.

This contrasts sharply with many companies who see the opportunity of the social stream to promote themselves, sell product or broadcast.

I’m sure no-one would admit that, but the behaviour often indicates otherwise.

Unlike Zappos, who don’t just talk it – they walk it.

A couple of hours after I shared the article – the following happened.

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Zappos favourited my tweet.

I was engaged and appreciated.

And finally I was followed.

Zappos don’t ship internationally. They have nothing to gain from me. But Zappos isn’t present just to sell. They are there to engage. In fact they have over 1,200 conversations each month with their customers. And they love them enough to follow them back.

Now, I don’t for one minute think that your follower/ following ratio is a complete measure of how engaged you are. For our personal Twitter accounts we all have our own “follow back” rules , and many people don’t like to follow lots of people. I get that.

But there is a difference between not following a complete stranger and choosing not to follow a customer. Or a potential customer. If you really wanted to engage, you’d surely want to hear what they had to say?

Zappos following a customer back says a lot about their culture. And a lot about how they achieved such rapid commercial growth.

They’re making an overt statement to customers – “we are no more important than you are”

I was discussing this issue with Shirley Ayres (a fount of knowledge on digital engagement).  We talked about whether an organisation could be considered truly engaged if it didn’t follow back. Shirley highlighted an organisation that followed back just 1% of its followers. (I’m not naming them here as this blog is not written with the intention to judge anyone.)

But it’s a great question.

What does your online behaviour say about your customer engagement?

A check on the twitter account of @monmouthshirecc (possibly the Council with the most “truly social” attitude) reveals they follow even more people than they have as followers. And they have a LOT of followers.

Zappos follows back over 90% of their audience and engages them in conversation about pretty much anything.

So , imagine you are a customer of a company or local authority and you follow them and they DON’T follow you back. They never acknowledge you.

Now , imagine you are a customer of Zappos or Monmouthshire.

Who do you think would feel the most engaged?

The Rules of Attraction

I was asked a question the other day:

“No-one is engaging with our Facebook discussion. Will you have a look at it and tell us what you think?” I turned the question back on them. “If it was you. And you were the customer. Would you have joined in?”

After a few seconds deliberation – the response. “Err , no – I wouldn’t.”

“Well”, I said. “There is your answer.”

I’m no expert in Social Media. But I’ve worked in customer engagement for over 10 years, and there’s one thing I absolutely know to be true. If you wouldn’t find it interesting yourself – why on earth would your customers?

Social Media is a relatively new tool. But just because it’s easy and cheap does not mean customers are more likely to engage with us.

There are three rules I was introduced to in my early (offline) days of working in customer engagement. They apply just as much today, in the online world.

1 – What’s in it for your audience? Why is engaging with you a good use of their time?

2 – Be entertaining. And if you can’t be entertaining – be extremely interesting.

3 – Go where the customer is. Don’t expect them to come to you.

A lot of customer engagement via Social Media fails to follow these basic rules. Organisations too often talk about themselves and what’s important to them rather than remain focused on the customer.

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean:

What’s in it for the customer? – @monmouthshirecc is a superb corporate Twitter feed that isn’t corporate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it promote anything about the actual organisation. And that’s probably why it has over 4,500 followers. Would you honestly follow your companies own Twitter feed if you didn’t work for them? If your answer is no – It will be no for your customers too.

Be Entertaining – Organisations are not interesting by default. The best corporate engagement is all about personality. For the Social Housing sector we have to accept we are not Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian. We are more Ed Miliband. So we need to have ultra interesting content. Or just be amusing. This video by @optimacommunity is a great example. It’s short , simple and funny. And it has a very deliberate call to action. It made me want to find out more.

Go where the customer is – There are thousands of local information websites across the UK. And there are countless local Facebook pages formed around communities of interest. Why not go to them and tap into existing networks rather than trying to create a new one? It’s harder work than lazily posting to your own page for sure , but it’s far more effective.

So the next time you wonder why no-one is engaging – ask yourself a simple question.

Would you?

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