The 11 Best Ways to Build Customer Engagement Online
Businesses are striving to stand out from the crowd and grow an active following online. We asked 11 business owners and marketing experts to share their best online customer engagement tips, from using YouTube to establish yourself as an expert in your field to committing random acts of kindness that get a community excited about your business.
1. If you want to know what your fans or customers want, ask them
Marissa Russell, The High Achieving Woman What separates people and businesses with engaged fan bases from those with disengaged fan bases is that they ask their target audiences what they want and need. Then they let their content and/or products revolve around that feedback rather than just hypothesizing about it. Never believe that you automatically know what's best for your audience. Ask them directly what they need or observe.
2. Random acts of kindness build goodwill
Bryan Clayton, GreenPal, @BryanMClayton Adding to that, we’ve also built positive PR organically by helping people in need through our services. Last summer, we started asking the lawn-care professionals that utilize our system to submit candidates who are in need of lawn mowing for free because of a tough personal situation. Now, once a month, we will go and mow a stranger’s home whose grass has gotten two or three feet tall because they are in a jam. One person was facing foreclosure, and another was getting ready to be cited by the city. We also try to help out single moms more than anybody.
This simple thing has pumped up our Facebook fans to well over 1,000 and our Twitter followers to over 4,000. We have gotten countless shares and even mentions in the local media due to the initiative. What we learned was in order to build a loyal fan base you must first add value before asking for their attention.
3. Share knowledge freely, including your own story; and be responsive to customers
Daisy Jing, Banish, @BanishAcneScars My company actually grew organically out of my own search for better beauty products, because I was constantly reviewing products for others like me. So many people watched and valued my posts that I started my own company—and I used my experience with utilizing YouTube as a powerful marketing tool. Here are my personal customer engagement tips:
- Use YouTube to establish credibility. On my YouTube channel, I make TMI (too much information) videos to educate my followers about their skin. They realize that I'm not just someone who sells them things.
- Communicate in a timely manner. My team is trained to respond to our customers (whether by email, call, or social media) in a timely manner. We find ways to connect to them so they will feel comfortable reaching out to us with their questions or concerns.
- Use Influencers. We use influencers to post videos, reviews, and photos on their social media, so our products are connected to the influencer's followers. We train our influencers on how to use our products and inform them about the products so when someone asks them a question, they too can easily connect with them.
- If it’s relevant, share your story. Whenever we have customers who are skeptical about our products’ effectiveness, I am the best example. My story is the perfect way to connect to my followers who have skin issues, because it’s relatable.
4. Reward and thank your existing fans
Derrick Kwa, PassionBlueprint, @DerrickKwa It's very easy to get caught up in trying to attract new fans. But one of the best ways to do that is to reward and thank your existing ones—the people who already love you. Doing so will 1. validate why they love you in the first place, and 2. give them more reason to share their enthusiasm for your brand with others.
5. Use email sign-ups as an opportunity to boost customer engagement
Will Barron, The Salesman Podcast, @SalesmanRed Engaging a podcast audience online is tough, as most of the content is consumed when people are running, driving or otherwise away from social and email. But the one thing I've implemented that has driven more conversations than anything else was simply asking people to share what they're struggling with in sales when they sign up to my email list. I get a 40% reply rate and engage with 30 to 40 new salespeople each day. I've found that if I can help solve their frustration (often as simple as suggesting a particular episode of the Salesman Podcast), that person becomes a superfan.
6. Create creative, authentic content that connects emotionally with viewers
Ryan Michael Ballow, LiveCortext, @RMichaelBallow The best way to stand out from the crowd, build a solid fan base and strengthen customer engagement is to create densely informative video content, preferably in real time, that's also extremely entertaining.
With video content, people are looking for solid, dense groups of impactful information—conveyed in clear, understandable terms—that they can apply immediately. Then, to really capture people's attention, you have to be engaging in things in real time. If you have a motocross blog, filming a video with a selfie stick, on a dirt bike, will really capture attention. If you can add a bit of humor into your delivery, viewers feel they’re getting a glimpse of a real person at the company, which helps create an emotional connection with your viewers.
7. Do unexpected things for customers to generate great online reviews
Gene Caballero, GreenPal, @YourGreenPal To build word-of-mouth for our company, which connects customers with high-quality, local lawn-care providers, social media has been our biggest platform for growing our business and improving customer engagement. With good reviews comes more business. One way we generate positive reviews from customers on Google+, Facebook, and Yelp is by using unexpected acts of kindness.
We send dog bones out to our homeowners with pets along with a thank-you card. Not only is this very cheap but it lets our customers know that we are listening and that we care. We follow up with an email asking if they received the gift along with a link to our social media pages.
8. Have a consistent brand voice
Max Robinson, Aims Media One of the main factors that will determine the loyalty of your fan base (and therefore the amount that they engage with your content) is a consistent brand voice across all channels. If the way that you portray your business differs across social media, email, blog posts and even in person, then you're giving the impression to your fans that you don't have a consistent image. Many brands think that constantly trying new and different things is the way to build customer engagement, but they won't learn to trust your brand unless you show consistency in the actions you're taking.
9. Seek feedback through Reddit
Ryan McCarl, WordBrewery, @RyanMcCarl At WordBrewery we tripled our number of registered users in 48 hours without spending anything. We did it by writing a post seeking feedback on the /r/languagelearning subreddit of Reddit, then writing detailed individual responses to each person who commented.
10. Use your base
Sebastien Dupéré, Dupray Building a large social media following starts with a base. Getting a follow from somebody you have already interacted with is far easier. When potential clients and customers of our steam cleaner/steam iron business know who we are and they are able to put a face to a name, they are statistically more likely to further that relationship. You need to do whatever its takes to get a base.
11. Utilize your own social media contacts to create word-of-mouth
Ruhullah Thurairatnam, Instantestore, @TheRuhullah We released a video, to our business fan page, which got 4.5K views, 60+ shares and reached over 13K people in one week. The only thing we did was make sure all 11 of us in the video shared it on our own timelines. Now that we have the numbers, I will be submitting it to video directories and other social media platforms like Snapchat and Reddit to ramp up the exposure and get more comments, likes, and shares.