Marketers are investing in social media in a big way, even B2B marketers, but according to a recent survey by Kantar Media’s TNS, “almost 60% of social network users in the U.S. do not want to engage with brands online.”
Confused? Don’t be: There’s a subtle distinction that needs to be made between social network users engaging with your brand, and using social media to research your brand. Even if they don’t want to join your discussion groups, post on your Facebook wall or subscribe to your Twitter feed, chances are your audience wants to use social media to learn more about you, on their own terms.
The same survey indicated that “54% of respondents said they used social networks to research brands.” The message is clear: Your target audience wants to be in the driver’s seat, and you need to provide the right online vehicles if you want to be considered in their purchase decision-making.
Your customers want to engage with the things they are passionate about, and if you provide that to them, then you’re all the more equipped to be top-of-mind when they are ready to buy.
Here are a few ways to engage with their passions, without brand-blasting them.
1) Build a topical online community
Whether you use Facebook, LinkedIn, or build your own online community, focus your topics and content on your products or services-types, rather than specific company. For example, if you’re a car manufacturer who makes convertibles, make the focus of your online community about the experience and thrill of being a convertible owner. No one wants to talk to a company before they’ve done any research, right? Talk about different experiences a convertible driver can have during each season, insurance-options and even specialty features. By providing a go-to resource for people who are excited and passionate about buying a convertible, you will be top-of-mind if and when they are ready to buy.
If you’re an established brand, then you should probably associate your company name with the site, but don’t be overly-promotional. Make the focus of your sites about your visitors and their passions, not about you.
2) Give educational content for free
The internet is an expansive resource center, so chances are if you’re not giving out information for free, someone is. Make sure your marketing team is equipped with educational, informative and fun content pieces to engage your readers. Post a “Top 10 Convertible Road Trip Routes” eBook, and ask for visitor feedback and reactions. Again, you’re invoking their emotions here, not trying to sell them. That comes much later, and is – according to the research findings listed above – not what they want to come to your site for.
2) Post videos and pictures- and ask your audience to do the same
Some of the coolest content marketing pieces I’ve seen from companies are their multimedia elements. PepsiCo and Sony are two companies to check out for examples (on Facebook, Twitter or Google+). They talk about their products but in such a topical way that you almost forget they are promoting themselves. They are showing how to have fun with their products, honing in on what sparks their visitors interests. Aflac did this last year too- only they asked visitors to contribute their own videos. Even better. The more you’re asking your audience to engage with their passions, using your brand as a vehicle, the better.
3) Use promotions and contests
Finally, a great way to spark passion in your audience is to get their juices flowing. Offer them something cool in exchange for a video or picture, enter them to win the latest technology product, or share their latest idea for how you can improve one of your products. Research indicates that “61% of consumers who do engage with brands online do so because of a promotion or to receive a special offer” because they need to have skin in the game. I would avoid providing a discount on your services, because that seems a bit self-serving. Make it all about them- stroke their egos, and make them eager to return to your sites to find more cool stuff that sparks their passions. Eventually, your company will become one of them.