Online communications differ from traditional communications in many respects, but the main difference is the ability of the communication recipient to respond. In other words, your customers can talk back. This fundamental distinction has in the past created the perception that online and digital media and communications are similar to direct response marketing, when in fact it is so much more.
Although online communication allows for direct response, it’s really more about conversations and brand dialogue. The immediacy of the medium implies that consumers can engage in unique dialogue and conversation with their brand, which gives brand owners the opportunity to not only maintain and build relationships, but often and more importantly to convert brand communication targets into brand ambassadors.
Devising your strategy
As a business owner yourself, the key points to bear in mind when engaging with consumers in this new, ‘always on’ digital world is transparency, honesty and value. These precepts are more important. The ability for a user to ignore your brand online is easier than ever before and as such it’s imperative that you maximise your opportunity to communicate. If there is the slightest hint of disingenuous brand activity, consumers will ignore you before you have even had the chance to ‘present’ to them.
Keep in mind that before your sales consultant even walks through a prospective client’s door, chances are they have researched you and what people have had to say about your company. Make sure you know what conversations are happening online about you, and direct the communication flow by being actively involved in any dialogue.
Achieving communication ubiquity is no simple task, but it can be done and revolves around following the above fundamentals. Understand that communication online is not always about scale. Often quality is far more valuable, and it’s of less value aggregating a million apathetic Twitter followers versus ten thousand militant brand ambassadors. Anyone and everyone can be online. Leverage this platform.
‘Value’ is only as valuable as your customers perceive it to be. In an increasingly competitive trading environment where ‘the showdown’ for every last client is always looming, client value and business value must align. It’s imperative that brand owners run their communication with the absolute intention of creating value for their clients and as such value for their business. If you’ve done something that you want to share with your customers, do it online. Understand that your clients want to hear from you, and you’ll be creating brand fans in the process.
Here are the top ten things to keep top of mind when communicating online:
- Brand honesty is key.
- Campaign and communication transparency is extremely important. Users are more likely to correctly interpret disingenuous communication for what it is.
- Don’t assume the people you want to speak to are stupid. They will prove they are not while you are crisis managing the social media storm they created after they felt they were being duped.
- Value is key; ‘always on’ consumers are always looking for value, and when choice is abundant and ‘generationals’ are fast becoming your new customer, brand loyalty means little.
- Don’t jump into anything; online communication requires planning and clarity of intention.
- Always choose quality over quantity.
- Do your homework; often the barrier to entry is lower than it seems.
- Don’t be afraid to mix your on and off line communication. Cross pollinating your messaging in smart and engaging ways is often successful.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; every company in the world has made mistakes when navigating the digital eco-system. It’s how you deal with them that matters and not that they happened.
- Never be afraid of dialogue with online users. Lack of ongoing communication is often worse than no communication at all.