Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Engagement is Global. Period. Paragraph.


When we last chatted, I told you about a great Brian Solis webinar and article about engagement.  I really do recommend that you listen to the webinar and read the article.  Both are very good and very thought provoking.  Great stuff all the way around.

As I mentioned yesterday, it occurs to me that there is some benefit in learning the basic principles of marketing before the internet because a "communications infrastructure" to borrow from that Pam Alexander quote I mentioned previously.  Engaging with and relating to your customers in meaningful ways is not at all new or different.  The difference is in framing and powering the conversation -- that is, engaging with and relating to customers (and prospects) with the advent of social media and the associated in creativity take on whole new dimensions previously unavailable to us.  And it's so exciting.

And yet, engagement should be its own customer based strategy regardless of how it is mechanized or delivered.  Yes, technology matters but getting the fundamentals and strategy right is also critical.  To be very clear -- I'm not dismissing social media, other forms of mobile technology or all of the cool future whizbangery stuff as mere tactics or as a means to the end.  That would be a mistake of colossal proportions.  I am suggesting that we need to be mindful of engagement as a global business / marketing strategy first and then consider engagement as an "offline" business / marketing strategy and, equally, engagement as a social media business / marketing strategy.

As I said in my last post, good engagement is, at its core, channel agnostic.  It's devoid of loyalty to any channel because it needs to be "on" when, how and in the tone the customer wants it because all engagement is customer driven.  We get permission from them once we've demonstrated that we've heard them, that we'd like to earn their long term trust (aka loyalty) and that we're offering value to them that meets their stated needs.  We have to work hard, regardless of media type, to establish the two way conversation with them.  Engagement is global.  Period.  Paragraph. 

To give my premise some texture, I'd like to go back to some of the take aways I shared with you yesterday. One of his points was that social media engagement isn't merely a conversation.  The premise is that engagement is about providing value in ways that are meaningful to the customers and that delivers the desired response be it a purchase, a referral, etc.  So, the two way exchange between us and customers is dynamic.  This is something he calls strategic participation.  Yes - and it's what good global engagement is all about.  This is its underlying structure and if it's something we don't understand or deviate from, we should be calling it a day.

One really interesting concept Brian Solis shared is the Human Network.  He suggests that the sum total of conversations and relationships is more than just a single network and that the social space is more than the dialogue that's occurring.  My twist here is is that the space is more than the social space.  It happens in passing, it happens when we interact with people in real time at the store and in media other than social.  What the social space does for us is that it finally documents what we, as marketers, could only speculate on before -- hallelujah -- which fortifies our global engagement strategy.  It gives us laser sharp marketing precision.  The Human Network allows us to be better partners to our customers, communicate on their terms, deliver better value and (hopefully) earn their long term trust at a faster rate.  

Another interesting point is based on some quotes from his article.  He says, "Everything starts with an acute awareness of where existing and potential customers are discovering and sharing information today with a genuine appreciation for what moves them."  After we've gleaned the insights, "we can engage with influencers, peers and consumers based on a transparent foundation of contributing value."  This is another hallelujah moment for social media.  These insights, however, are feeders like the Human Network to the global engagement strategy.  I think this might be what he means, potentially, but I want to spell it out further here.  The insights are not reserved for social media platforms solely. Truisms are truisms regardless and we should let the truths refine and define our strategies further.  Of course, some truisms are social media specific but for the most part, they should be informing global engagement and other types of delivery: offline, customer service, customer experience, etc.

One last takeaway I'll share with you is perhaps one of my favorites.  He calls for social media marketers to be sociologists and ambassadors.  The onus is on the social media marketer to represent the Human Network to the powers that be which means translating wants, needs and desired experiences in proposed monetized ways that will motivate leaders to act.  This is, at its core, marketer as customer champion because before we put on our social media marketing mantle, we put on our marketing mantle.  The fundamentals of being a good marketer require championing the customer and doing our best to deliver what they've asked for from us.  The fundamentals of a good global engagement strategy require putting the customer first.  The social media hallelujah moment here is that because the social space is more than the dialogue that occurs, we can filter through noise better than before and fix on the "right" things to translate to business leaders to arrest attention and motivate action.

So, our global strategy is formed thanks to the advent of technologies and opening of avenues previously out of our reach to us.  Social media in and of itself is an incredible game changer but we can't use that powerful tool to our advantage unless we start with understanding and acting based on marketing fundamentals first.

Again, as I've said before, I've much to learn and I'm enjoying the ride.  Please send me your thoughts so we can continue the conversation!


Parissa Behnia

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