Online communities and social networking are great ways to enhance the level of real-world customer engagement and customer relationships. And, the converse is also true.
By customer engagement I am referring to getting the customer emotionally and mentally engaged in understanding how you value proposition is a value proposition for them. By enhanced customer relationships I am talking about actions that shift the focus of the buyer-seller relationship from the product and the transaction to the inherent value of the relationship.
Online networking for offline results – here are three examples of how companies and individuals are making this happen.
- Social networks prior to Events.Many marketers recognize that customers and prospects get a lot out of peer interactions when the attend conferences and corporate events. The value of this interaction is surfacing in what is being termed the unconference where between presentation interactions are playing a more prominent role in events. Now some marketers are using online social networking to stimulation the level of engagement offline. How? They use temporary social networking sites to let attendees share what they are interested in learning or gaining from this event. Attendees are also encouraged to share their related experience and expertise. By perusing this information before hand, attendees can ear-mark the people they want to meet. The agenda is better defined and the level of engagement rises. Some people show up with print-outs of each contact they want to make, complete with picture.
- Using social networks to enhance their brain trust. A straight forward example is using sites like Linkedin.com to identify people that have experiences and expertise that you would like to tap into. By working through mutual connections it is easy to make contact with these people. However, getting an offline meeting where open-ness and sharing are likely requires the setting of a win-win agenda.
- Attracting birds of a feather. A number of sites like Meetingup.com and Bayarealinkup.com let anyone organize an event around a topic and publicize online to attract participants. Sure, these sites are being used to organize wine tasting and bocce games but they are also being used for business purposes. For example, next week I will join 79 others at an informal gathering to discuss word-of-mouth. Thanks to Meetingup.com and online profiles I know some interesting people will be there.
Offline contact that leverages online presence. Real-world networking situations are not a good place to try to convince someone you (and your company) are the go-to guy in a field. However, if they have an interest in a topic, it is a great opportunity to direct them to a resource you have on your web site. Once there they are likely to check you and your company out more thoroughly. The offline meeting and invitation can enhance the level of online engagement.
A common complaint by many professionals is that their company site doesn’t allow them to uniquely respond to customer facing situation. Here is an example of a clever strategy that is more than a work around. SavvyInternetMarketing.com uses Del.icio.us to support Savvy resources—a list of recommended online articles and resources about Internet Marketing. A link called Savvy Resources exists on the home page but it links to resources tagged and bundle on Savvy’s Del.icio.us site. This enhances image of Savvy as a company interested in win-win relationships with customers.
You don’t even need a web site. Just set up a free account on a site like Del.icio.us and save your online content. By tagging it and putting it in meaningful tag bundles you have a dynamic information management system—for free. As you meet someone with a common interest, just direct them to www.del.icio.us/yourname/tagbundle. Not only do they get the information, they are likely to get an elevated impression of you—and, your relationship value grows.