If your company has made attempts to engage with customers on social media, there’s a good chance that you haven’t been impressed by the results. There’s a very simple reason for that: Most of your social media followers never see the content that you post. On Facebook, for example, the average item posted by a business reaches just 5.2 percent of followers. Even worse, just 0.25 percent of the people who see branded content on Facebook actually interact with it. Social media is so saturated with advertising that most people simply ignore all of it.
The social networks certainly aren’t in your corner. A social network is essentially just an advertising service that sells its users to advertisers like you. If you want to reach more than the tiniest fraction of the network’s user base, you need to pay for the privilege. Otherwise, most of the people who opt in to receiving communication from you will never actually see any of it.
There’s got to be a better way. Paying for better reach on social media, however, definitely isn’t it. What’s the point in paying for exposure on a social network where users ignore branded content 99.75 percent of the time? You want to engage your customers online. You want to cultivate positive sentiment and increase the relevance and reach of your brand. Most importantly, you want to do it in a way that doesn’t give a third-party company the ability to become the gatekeeper.
It doesn’t matter whether you sell vape juice, pet food or home improvement supplies – customer engagement is an incredibly powerful thing that’s well worth having. Here are 3 ways to engage your customers online without using social media.
Turn Your Blog Into a Community
Are there any blogs that you enjoy reading in your free time? If there are, there’s a good chance that you found out about those blogs because they’re popular. People check their favorite blogs routinely for new posts – and when posts do appear, they can’t wait to jump into the discussion. A popular blog can become a lively community in its own right, with comment sections sometimes growing so large that they eclipse the actual blog posts in length.
When you check the blog section on a business’s website, though, you seldom see a sense of community. Companies post articles because they know it’s good for SEO and web traffic. Readers hardly ever leave comments, though – and when they do, the business doesn’t reply. That’s a lost opportunity to engage with customers. By thinking differently about how you manage your blog, you can actually build a blog that becomes a prominent online destination full of interesting discussions.
Keep these two things in mind if you want to foster engagement with your website’s blog.
- When people comment on your posts, you should reply to those comments when it’s appropriate. People won’t leave comments if they think they’re just typing into a vacuum.
- Getting people to comment on a blog post takes a little more effort than concluding the article with a statement like, “What did you think of this article? Leave your comment below!” Look closely at other active blogs and see the techniques that they use to engage their readers and generate discourse.
Start a Mailing List and Invite Your Customers to Talk Back
If you want to reach your customers directly without a social network acting as a gatekeeper and demanding payment, one of the most effective things that you can do is to start a mailing list. If you’re running an e-commerce site, in fact, there’s a good chance that you have a mailing list already because the functionality is built into many e-commerce platforms.
Creating real engagement with a mailing list, however, isn’t just a matter of sending periodic email blasts announcing your latest sales and new products. If your email newsletters are always promotional in nature, in fact, there’s a good chance that most of your subscribers will ignore them.
To generate engagement with a mailing list, you need to think differently about email marketing. Instead of thinking about what you can do to make each newsletter generate revenue for you, think of what you can do to make your newsletters more informative and entertaining. If you want people to read your newsletters, you’ve got to provide value.
Most importantly, if you want people to engage with your email newsletters, you’ve got to encourage them to talk back. Send your newsletters from a monitored email address. Tell your customers that you’d love to hear from them and that all they need to do is click the “Reply” button if they have something to say.
Rethink the Customer Review Process
The customer review process is another thing that many e-commerce websites get entirely wrong. There’s a good chance that your website allows customers to post reviews of products. Maybe you even incentivize the review process by giving people extra loyalty points or other goodies for leaving reviews. It’s worth it because the reviews are good for SEO and for helping people decide what to buy. You’re missing the point of the review process, though, if you just approve the reviews and then forget about them.
To get an idea of the potential that product reviews could have for generating customer engagement, look at a major website like Amazon. You’ll see that the review section for every product is almost like a miniature forum. People reply to other customers’ reviews, and every product has a Q&A section where people can ask product owners for help or find answers to questions that aren’t answered in the products’ descriptions.
Amazon is a great example of the idea that every page on your website – even a product page – can generate customer engagement if you encourage that level of discourse. Give your customers an opportunity to discuss products with one another, and you could see a community emerge. When a customer leaves a negative review, don’t just leave a reply saying that you’ll be getting in touch to make things right – publish some helpful information that can help future customers avoid having the same problem. That’s how you build real engagement and foster a sense of community.