Online Customer Engagement is a Myth

by Eric Brown |

The Social Media Echo Chamber clamors that as business owners, we need to embrace the new media, be transparent, join the conversation and engage with our customers. That sure does have a smooth and flowery pitch. Accordingly, that is how it works for your business. Launch a Facebook Fan Page, a Twitter account, a blog and let the customer engagement begin. Your over-satisfied and happy customers will flock to your digital pasture with stimulating and fulfilling “engagement.”

Not So Fast With That Advice

Recommending that businesses need to be online to engage with their customers is bunk. In our own experience (at Urbane Apartments) of utilizing and practicing various means and methods of social media with our own company, including our  local community blog of 595 posts, that generated 1,860 approved comments, not a single one has been us (the business) engaging with a customer. None. Zero.

The awkward feeling that a business owner gets when hearing this fuzzy engagement stuff, and a reason your internal compass starts to spin is valid. That just isn’t how it works. The closest thing to online conversation and engagement are marketing folks talking to marketing folks and social media bloggers commenting on other social media blogs.

When Customers Are Mad or Have a Problem

Info from the English WP http://en.wikipedia.o...
Image via Wikipedia

As enevitable problems occur in everyday business, people are picking up the phone and calling, or firing off an email. Assuming you answer the phone and respond to email, the problems get solved and your business stays out of the negative review column. Almost always a customer just wants their problem fixed, and the phone or email is the quickest and most efficient conduit to that means.

Successful companies have always engaged with their customers. That is part of what creates repeat business. Long before the Internet, the local butcher in our small town knew exactly the right cut of meat my dad liked, the pharmacist knew when anyone in our family was sick. The point is that you likely aren’t doing this type of engagement with your online marketing.

Where Is the Pay Dirt?

Should you happen to be in a rather boring industry, such as apartment rentals (like us), or say, the tire business, prospects just are not likely to engage with you unless they need a specific question answered or a problem solved. However, those same potential tire store prospects, or their friends, will emerse themselves in auto repair stories, or all things car lovers, and with emotion, because they are talking about stuff they get excited about.

Create a platform, via a well-crafted company blog that your Community of Interest can engage and entertain with each other, and you have hit Pay Dirt! It is more about leading the group and creating a playground as opposed to customer engagement.

We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions surrounding engagement, and how it is working with your marketing strategy. These are the lessons we’ve learned, as counter to the social media evangelist’s advice as they might be. What are yours? The comments are open!

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About the Author

Eric Brown

Eric Brown's background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2003, after serving as senior vice president for a major Midwest apartment developer. He established a proven track record of effectively repositioning existing rental properties in a way that added value for investors while enhancing the resident experience. He also established The Urbane Way, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested.