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How Brand Building Is Like a Party: 5 Ways to Engage on the Customer’s Terms
Thursday, March 29th, 2012 | Comments | Latest Posts

Party This WaySocial media allows brands to listen to and engage with customers more than ever before, and mobile supports customers providing instant, contextual feedback in the channel(s) of their choice. Despite these advantageous tools for creating positive customer interactions, I’ve recently noticed a few brands starting to create experiences on their terms, not on the customer’s terms. This isn’t enjoyable for the customer or effective for the brand–so here are some tips for avoiding that fate.

1. Set Up for Success

Having a dynamic brand is a little like throwing a great party. You need to do a lot of planning to ensure that everyone has a great experience, without making those experiences too restrictive. And there are a lot of variables to take care of, both with brand building and parties. You need to invite people early enough that they can plan, but not so far in advance that they’ll forget. You need to invite enough people for enjoyable conversation (have a strong brand community), but not so many that it gets too packed or so few that things become awkward. You need to plan activities (offer compelling content) in case people look bored, but not force others into your pre-planned regimen (allow customers to contribute). We’ve all dealt with party hosts who were far too rigid about when you had to show up (after 7:04 but before 7:13), who you could bring (no significant others / only significant others), what you had to wear (no jeans, no sneakers), or what you had to do (pin the tail on the donkey? really?). Those aren’t really the best parties to attend, are they? Don’t throw one like that for your brand.

2. Listen, Don’t Tell

Some brands are attempting to initiate customer conversations with a similarly restrictive mindset, forcing consumers into a specific engagement channel without taking the time to get to know people’s preferred contact methods first. Two such examples are click-to-call and scan-to-join. Click-to-call can be a disruptive experience. If I’m using an app to play a game, engage with friends, or just get information, I’ll probably be annoyed about accidentally clicking ads or content that takes me to my phone. Even if I am seeking to engage with a brand, I may simply want to send out an email or a tweet and get a response (hopefully with a resolution to my issue!) later, not talk to someone immediately or sign on to receive more content. A better option than forcing click-to-call or scan-to-join may be to offer a few relevant options: email us, follow/like us, sign up for updates, or view frequently asked questions (the options to offer depends on what your customers want to do). This provides immediate value for customers while also giving them the option to choose ongoing engagement.

3. Party with Your Friends… and Make New Ones

Paul Adams of Facebook gave a great summation of the problems with regimented brand outreach at the Federated Media Signals conference last week. TechCrunch quotes Adams as saying that offering up intrusive ads (or phone calls, or email signups) instead of building customer relationships is like “trying to throw a party with a bunch of strangers. It’s not going to be a very good party.” Partying with strangers can be awkward. It’s even more awkward (and off-putting) if you’ve already met someone, but the person doesn’t remember you (Exhibit A: brands that continually ask for your email address when you’re already on their list!). It can be best to ease into meeting strangers through a mutual acquaintance (or a social media connection). And it’s best to engage with your customers through channels that appeal to them, where they can share the experiences and get the information that transforms your brand from a stranger to a trusted entity.

4. After the Party Ends

Don’t think that it’s enough to have a phone number or an email list. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to grow your audience. Etch-a-Sketch may have missed a chance to throw a big party for its brand this week when Etch-a-Sketch interest soared after a comment from one of Mitt Romney’s team members. The company sent Etch-a-sketches to political figures and gave media interviews, but hasn’t capitalized on the attention by adding relevant content to its own web presence. This will make the media firestorm a flash in the pan, rather than an opportunity to keep conversing with fans of the brand.

5. Keep It Human

In order to have a conversation, brands must be human. You don’t tell consumers what to think of your brand (though you can try), you ask them what they thought. You wouldn’t tell your party guests they had a great time if they didn’t, right? Even when a party doesn’t go well, or has an off moment, the best way to deal with it is with humanity and humility–not by sweeping it under the rug.

Are you using these tips to build your brand?

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