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Social Business Building Blocks – Engagement on the Social Web

Engagement as a Customer Activity

The Social Web creates an expectation from the customer’s perspective—whether a prior, current, or potential customer—of a two-way relationship with brands, products, and services that was nearly unthinkable just a generation of business ago. Customers now have a real voice that—in advertising lingo—resonates with others who share their lot: Just as soon as your awareness campaign has done its job, they’ll use their new collaborative tools to vet your claims and promises. They’ll ask questions of each other and share outcomes, and in the process exert influence on pending or potential decisions of all involved. It’s a kind of group-think, gone wild.

At the heart of engagement is a fundamental connection between the business and the customer, a connection where the customer is not a “target” but is rather an equal partner. This shift in perspective is significant and will be difficult for many businesses to fully embrace. Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang put it this way: “Companies know the problem will get worse before it gets better. Organizations realize they are no longer in charge. They often lack a credible strategy that empowers their employees to catch up with their customers.”

Learn to Think Like a Fish

When you turn your perspective around to the viewpoint of your customers, the mechanics of engagement change. From the perspective of the fish, it is not the lure that is “engaging.” Rather, it is the act of eating, driven by a more fundamental interest— like the instinct of survival—that results in the fish being “engaged.” The lure looks like a meal, and fish think a lot about eating. Simply put, successfully catching a fish 205.

Engagement Points

Leaving you to figure out where to apply them—the easy way to put the information contained in this table to use is by looking at the “Engagement Activity” column. Compare these activities with your own business objectives and look for relevant, interesting ideas on which to build. It’s always a better idea to start with the end application or business objectives and then choose the tools than it is to pick a tool and try to come up with a use.

It’s Still Your Business

How often do you hear someone say, “When it comes to the Social Web, if your customers tell you to jump, your only response should be along the lines of ‘how high’”? Or perhaps you’ve been told, “You need to be 100 percent transparent.” While these make great rallying points—and from 30,000 feet they are correct—they aren’t all that useful when it comes to the task of actually applying social technology to your business or organization. Sometimes customers get it wrong, and “100 percent transparency” could be taken to mean being so transparent that your competitors know (as a result) what you are planning. Remember, it is still your business.

In respect to the customer’s participation, you’ve got to do something or you risk alienating (to put it nicely) your audience. In a case like this, the only viable response— which by default makes it the best response—is to clearly explain why this particular request can’t be entertained and to offer instead an alternative if one is available. When customers have the information they need to understand why something is happening (or can’t happen) they generally end up supporting you.

At this point the pilot came on, explained that we were in fact being delayed, and asked passengers what they wanted to do: The choices offered were either circling for another hour—the estimated time of delay—or diverting to Milwaukee and spending the night there. In a unanimous cry, the plane’s passengers opted to circle for an hour or more.

However, the pilot then continued explaining the choices more completely: if we diverted, rooms would be provided, etc. and that, oh by the way, we had less than 45 minutes of fuel remaining. Everyone yelled “Let’s go to Milwaukee!” and off we went.

Last word

But wait…it actually gets even better. Other customers are also involved, so if the idea is crazy on its face, very often the other participants involved will handle the situation themselves. In the cases of Dell, Starbucks, or India’s Hindustan Times.

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