In the first of two articles Sean Duffy, CEO and founder of Duffy Agency, talks about the importance of online engagement.
Almost two decades ago, a report from McKinsey & Company entitled “A revolution in interaction” proposed that the biggest impact of the internet on business would be the reduction of interaction costs. The paper then explores the economic ripple effect that happens when interaction costs are reduced to negligible amounts predicting that “It will be far easier for any company, regardless of size, to reach new customers anywhere in the world. … Being global was synonymous with being huge. This is no longer true. Many companies will be born global.”
The brands with the most to gain from this shift are international brands where traditional interaction costs have been highest. In fact, brands today can reach out to a global online audience of around three and a half billion people for less than the cost of one postage stamp. In theory, the internet allows all brands to interact with prospects and customers internationally. In practice, however, very few mid-size brands succeed to engage prospects and customers online, particularly outside their home market. That’s because although reaching people has become easy and cheap, having them engage (notice and respond to your brand) is as difficult as it ever was. So what is online engagement, why is it important and how can marketers like you use it to drive international growth?
Put simply, engagement is when you reach out to a prospect and they reach back. One outcome of the negligible interaction costs cited by McKinsey is that engagement has become the newest competitive battleground for marketers. Just ask a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) what their top ten online marketing concerns are. Engagement usually appears in the top three. Why is that? Because they understand that engagement is the online catalyst that converts prospects to customers, customers to loyal customers, and loyal customers to vocal brand advocates.
Online engagement can take many forms, from favoriting a Tweet to creating a fan video on YouTube, to clicking the buy button. But, the reasons why people engage with brands remain consistent. People engage with brands they like and don’t mind being associated with. Those are the brands they understand, value, relate to, and trust. How well does your brand compete on these criteria?
For most marketers, engaging with prospects online is a new skill. Pre-2005, when marketing communication was mostly one-way, engagement wasn’t on the radar, at least not the way it manifests itself today. The challenge for brands hasn’t gotten any easier. Each year people are increasingly selective about what brands they engage with, especially on social platforms. And as challenging as engagement can be for domestic brands, it becomes even more elusive when trying to engage across the barriers of culture and language.
An army of social media gurus have promoted the false notion that engagement is simply a matter of platforms and tactics. That may have been true a decade ago when Facebook was a mystery box to marketers. But today, the source of most online engagement problems is more likely to be an outmoded brand strategy that was not developed with an online audience in mind. If you’re not satisfied with the level of engagement your brand receives online, then there is a good chance that online visitors find the brand’s offer unclear, undifferentiated from your competitors, irrelevant to their needs, untrustworthy, or all of the above. A new Pinterest board won’t solve that. These are the real issues that need to be addressed if you want to solve engagement problems at the source.
You can read the second article in this series which talks about the importance of brand identity and strategy here