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Have you ever had a friend or colleague who you felt was always talking at you, rather than with you? Did it seem like they were just there to be listened to, but not to listen? Wasn’t it frustrating? You could only respond with hums and an acknowledging nod for so long. Well, sometimes your audience likely feels the same way. They feel like content and advertisements are speaking at them, but not with them. By building a productive dialogue with your audience, you can build an active relationship that will benefit both your brand and your customers.
Understand the Shifting Currents
Image via Flickr by perzonseo
Marketing used to be centered on one-way broadcasting, where advertising and content campaigns focused on delivering a message as if through a megaphone. The content was displayed to the audience for them either to accept or deny. This came (and still comes) in the form of magazine ads, TV commercials, billboards, and more. It got the message across, but it did so without actively engaging the audience. Most marketers, however, are realizing that they need to deliver more personalized content that encourages two-way communication.
While many modern-technology naysayers will claim that social media and smartphones keep us from communicating, the popularity of such innovations actually suggests the opposite: that we hunger for connections and interaction, even if that interaction only takes place in a virtual space. Through the use of digital tactics, social media, and more interactive websites, businesses can encourage this crucial two-way communication.
Take Advantage of the Virtual Space
Marketers need to learn to take into account their audience’s preference for communicating in a virtual space. A recent study, in fact, discovered that the majority of US consumers now prefer to communicate with companies through messaging rather than through email or by calling an 800 number.
The easiest way to meet this need is to add a messaging app to your website. That way, users can easily send your customer service team a message, and your team can then send them a direct, personalized response. Not only will you satisfy their needs quickly, but you’ll also develop a relationship of trust by illustrating that you care about their individual needs.
Users are also using ad blockers more often. When they’re on social media or other websites, they no longer want ads flashing up and encouraging them to visit your website. But where one door has closed, many more have opened. So if you don’t want to contribute resources to an ad campaign, only to have those ads blocked, you need to work on establishing a productive dialogue.
Create a Constructive Environment
The best way to start building a productive dialogue with your audience is to create an environment where your audience is comfortable sharing. They need to feel like their opinions are valued and actually make a difference. No one wants to feel like they’re just shouting into the void.
Create opportunities for dialogue. Hold Twitter chats or Facebook or Instagram Live videos where your audience can ask questions and get to the heart of issues. Create a poll where your audience can decide what kind of content they would like to see from you, then go with whatever they decide. If you involve your audience through multiple stages of the marketing process, they will likely be more inclined to participate in the conversation.
Consider inviting members of your audience to contribute to the dialogue with guest posts, videos, testimonials, and other content. You’ll give the rest of your audience a relatable common denominator. You’ll show them that you’re not just a business and they’re not just customers, but that they are a valuable part of your brand.
Use Social Listening
If you have any hopes of starting a productive dialogue, then you need to be aware of the dialogue that already exists. By engaging in social listening, you can get an idea of what your audience is saying about your industry, their needs, and even your own brand.
Don’t be afraid to spend resources browsing social media posts rather than only logging into your account to post your own content. Maybe you feel like checking out notifications about your brand is enough, but those notifications unfortunately don’t catch every mention of your brand. For example, you’ll only be notified on Twitter if someone tags your brand with the @, and only nine percent include the @ along with your Twitter handle, which means that if you only rely on notifications, you’re missing 91 percent of your mentions.
Instead of relying solely on notifications, use Twitter’s, and other social media channel’s, search function to find specific mentions of your brand. You can also throw in some more terms to narrow your topic of interest.
Use Content to Invite Conversations
Social media is built for making connections, so get out there and connect. In every piece of content that you post, encourage dialogue by asking questions of your audience. Watch as users respond, and take the time to reply to their comments. You can gain valuable insight by listening to someone who isn’t afraid to share their opinion online. You know that you’re getting the honest truth and that honesty, though biting at times, may help you overcome roadblocks that your business has been facing for months.
Do you feel like your posts aren’t getting the engagement you hoped for? Not every post will get a viral response, but you can start with the content. Guarantee that all of your content is high-quality and interesting. Get your audience interested in the topic or issue central to your content, and they’ll want to continue the conversation. If you really feel like you can’t get more than one comment on every post, check out your competitor’s social media page. They may be employing tactics that are engaging the shared target audience more than yours are.
Finally, if you’re going to build a productive dialogue, you need to be willing to accept criticism. You need to recognize that your audience can help you recognize and solve problems within your business, and that requires you to listen. If you can take the hits, absorb the constructive feedback, and integrate audience insights into your strategy, you’ll see growth in your brand like you’ve never seen before.