Recently something awkward happened. Sitting on a characteristically cramped train to Waterloo my eyes made contact with a complete stranger. I know what you are thinking, how reckless of me, and well I don’t know- it just happened. Of course I sought to rectify my feckless actions with respectfully averting my eyes away immediately, as did my victim.
Ok so sure, I am being a bit dramatic, but the revelation remained- if it is such an infraction to look at another stranger how much more taboo is it to speak to them in person? It seems the new golden rule is– Love thy neighbour, just don’t talk to them directly- or make eye contact on The Tube… Oh God no.
It was not, of course, always this way, as I am sure your nana loves telling you. There was a time when our main interaction was face to face. Now, wait hold the phone, in fact I will… because that device in your hand is actually what has made us this way.
The digital era has transformed us into a people who are far more comfortable with approaching strangers and starting conversations online, than we are having conversations in person. This is a universal epidemic that has become even more critical in cities, where despite encountering swarms of people daily, we probably will talk to very few of them. Depressing for humanity yes, but with change comes opportunity and this current climate should be music to a brands ears.
Why you ask? Well, because when conversations and interactions are moved online, there is an opportunity for brands to influence, start and yes even control them. Of course marketers jumping on the digital band wagon is nothing new. Everyone knows the potential benefits of social media, however like a new dance craze, not everyone knows how to do it right. Well, in the brutal world of social media there are no A’s for effort, you either get it right or risk looking more uncool then if you sat this one out. Daunting I know but fear not, I am going to show you the way to electric slide into your consumer’s heart.
Your consumer and you are the same species: human.
Now this may sound obvious, but in fact is the single most forgotten thing when it comes to brands communicating to consumers. Brands put on their brand hat and forget how to interact normally. Being human in fact your biggest asset, so put aside the robot (that dance is out dated any way) and learn to be more human. The rules for digital conversation are quite similar to the rules of face to face interaction, in case you are a little rusty, here they are.
Here are 5 tips to get you started on the right digital foot
1. Get Real
First of all, ditch seeing them as ‘the consumer’, its creepy, and it keeps you too far removed from the situation to interact effectively online. In essence what you are seeking is to become easy friends with your ‘consumer’. So from now on, let’s refer to them as potential friends instead.
If you wish to talk to a certain type of ‘friend’, research where they’ll be before you approach. This is basic knowledge in the real world, yet in the digital world, it seems that brands are comfortable with the wide net approach, getting on a social soap box and yelling to anyone who will hear them. This is in fact uncool, and results in a similar reaction as it would in the real world… people walk past. An interested few are better than the disinterested masses. So do your research, and work out where your consumers are… then go there. Oh, and here is a hint- it may not be Facebook… think outside the (soap) box. Forums are a great place to find people specifically interested in your specialism.
3. Why are you even here?
So you have found where your ‘potential friends’ reside online, now what? Now before you walk up to that virtual bar and make a fool of yourself, consider what is the purpose of your interaction? What behaviour you are trying to encourage? Let me relate this back to life, if you were going to approach a girl at the bar, it would help if you knew what you wanted out of the interaction, as the desired outcome would affect the approach no? The same is true for online, decide why you want to talk to your ‘potential friend’. What’s your desired outcome, once you know- it is time to get you’re A game on.
4. Say something worth saying
So now you are in the right place, and you know what you are here for, great – now what?
Well this is simple. You should by now know your consumer, if you don’t go back to step one and conduct more research. Now that you are here say something worth saying. Instead of going in there and talking all about you, offer some information that will be of interest to your new friends. If you picked the right forum or social platform – you have the benefit of an expert’s perspective. You can also bring up subjects and interesting stories. Become that cool interesting guy at the party. Be humorous, intelligent, interesting and above all be natural. It’s not all about selling your side, it’s about interacting.
Speaking of interacting, another basic rule good conversation is to reciprocate. Ask your new ‘friends’ questions, and leave room for them to answer back. Comment on comments, seek out who follows you and interact with them back. Don’t be obnoxious. Go beyond your profile and show interest in those who show interest in you.
So there you have it. In an age where you can seldom have a conversation without being interrupted by a smart phone, the conversations worth having are often digital. Offering a great opportunity to truly impact your consumer, *cough* I mean friend, in a meaningful way. Don’t waste it by being a robot.