• The Five “Cs” for Captivating Customers

    Fostering passion and meaningful engagement through social media are no easy undertakings – especially where business buyers are concerned. Getting those customers to love you – let alone tell others about you – is even tougher. So what are the practical how-tos of building a community of evangelists who’ll help you spread the word?

    An authentic business presence in relevant social networks is step one. This lets you directly engage with your customers and prospects – your followers – where and when you are most relevant to them. The added bonus of connecting with them here vs. elsewhere? Data shows that these social followers are up to 2.5 times* more likely to purchase products from you.

    For the past six years, my team and I have worked to grow and nurture one of the fastest-growing social business networks in the IT industry. During this time, we’ve learned a great deal about how IT professionals from small and mid-sized businesses – some of the most tech savvy buyers around – prefer to engage with vendors on social networks. Put simply, they want relevant info and straight-talk from a person they trust. Not marketing fluff from a company simply trying to sell them something. And they don’t mind a little bit of fun along the way!

    For the IT marketer tasked with managing company pages across social networks, this can be a bit of a transition in terms of how they typically communicate with prospects. But by getting back to the basics outlined by these five key tips, you’ll find that winning over followers and scoring “social success” is easier than you think.

    The Five “Cs”:

    1. Conversation: You must get in the trenches, listen….and be willing to hear and respond to what they are saying. Don’t just react to comments you see, but proactively ask questions. Ask people what they think, what they want and need. Ask how they use your stuff and be courageous enough to ask what they think about your stuff.

    The more you are willing to have a dialogue with them, the more they will trust you. The best part? You get the real-deal insight you’ve typically had to pay big bucks for in the past (after all “field research” is really just a fancy phrase for real world feedback). And, that’s exactly what you can get from having conversations with your followers. Plus, you get the perks of winning their trust in the process!

    2. Camaraderie: Whether consumers at play or professionals at work, people appreciate connecting with others like them. And those connections run even deeper when they are characterized by familiarity and trust. And deeper still when they involve helping each other. When you create a digital group, ask yourself how to best forge these connections. By rallying them around topics, questions, stories and causes they care about and have in common, you’ll create the type of camaraderie that is a driving force behind the success of any community, whether large or small.

    3. Creativity: Aside from not having substantive, useful information to share, the most expensive mistake you can make in your social community is lack of creativity. Don’t look for a formula on how to engage your followers. Even amid delivering them with info you know they want, shake it up a bit and figure out new ways to surprise and entertain them. They’ll find it refreshing and memorable. And if you come up empty on ideas? Ask your followers what they want you to do! And give them ample opportunity to be creative!

    In fact, regularly asking network members or followers to contribute their thoughts, take polls, enter contests or other activities that showcase their ideas will help them feel a sense of ownership – which will inspire them to stay involved. You’ll be surprised at how these buyers will appreciate the opportunity to provide input on anything from product development to your latest ad campaigns. Just make sure to show them that you’ve listened – that you’ve done something with the feedback they took the time to share.

    4. Candor: Social network members can smell a rat. To succeed, you must be genuine and provide value to community members and followers, or you can quickly become crowdsourced “toast.”  Respect your followers and dignify them by being upfront about things. Don’t give them a “sales pitch in sheep’s clothing” – give them the info they need to help them make a decision. When you make a mistake, just say so. And overall, just do what you learned in kindergarten: tell the truth. People will thank you for it.

    5. Comedy: They say laughter is the best medicine, well in the case of digitally connected communities, it’s not just medicine – it’s the extra dose of octane that makes the community thrive!  It humanizes and entertains. In the age of instant updates via tweets and feeds, a lighthearted tone and sense of humor can be the reason that people are willing to listen to and engage with your Pages or community over those from boring, bland brands who take themselves too seriously. Plus, can help diffuse even the most angry of ranting posts. So keep it upbeat and be sure to let ‘em laugh!

    The final frontier? Dedication. You must participate, not just facilitate! Beyond being mindful of these 5 Cs, success is predicated on getting to know and nurturing your community. Not just asking an intern to log-in from time to time and complete a checklist of to-dos. As with any relationship, the more time you invest, and the more authentic you are, the stronger the trust, the connection – and the payoff! – will be.

    Jen Slaski is the Director of Marketing for Spiceworks, the largest and fastest-growing social business network for IT, which is winning over 2000 news users each day transforming how $1 trillion worth of technology products is managed, marketed and sold each year. Jen holds a B.A. from Stanford University. To read all blogs posted by Spiceworks, click here.

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