When Mr. Paolo Pangan, Digital Strategy Manager of Yehey!, gave a lecture on viral marketing, he pointed a specific ineffective tactic used by companies when engaging people online: starting fake conversations. Used to hype certain campaigns at its initial stage, this tactic usually backlashes anyway, especially since most people detect posers in the Internet. In the end, companies suffer more. They may have gotten the initial hype they bargained for, but at the expense of their reputation.
So really, how does a company start a conversation online? The genuine kind that doesn’t compromise the reputation and dignity of a company? The kind that people actually listen to and engage? As an active part of a generation companies have been desperately trying to engage, here are some ways for companies to engage people online.
Find out where they are.
They’re in forums, Facebook groups, online organizations, and chatrooms: people who can potentially listen to your brand. As Solis pointed out in his Conversation Prism, companies first have to listen.
Speak their language.
One of the most important lessons in Linguistics in communicative competence: the ability to apply one’s mastery (or lack of, to some) of linguistic competence to varying social contexts. In other words, you should speak in the manner the situation calls for.
If the person you’re talking to is more comfortable in Tagalog, then do your best to adjust–maybe even speak in Tagalog–without compromising who you are. If you don’t, the other end will be put off and unlikely to respond. That’s the case for many companies.
Don’t just go ahead and shove your campaign in their faces. If you are in a forum with people who are actively talking to each other, you’ll be coming in as a stranger, a new face. For that, you have to introduce yourself before you even jump in the conversation. Like what you’d do to a friend, know something about him/her before you expect reciprocation. You don’t exactly butt in while people are talking in real life, right?
Also, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel at ease if somebody with a brand for a user profile name tries to talk to me. That would be just weird, not to mention hard to trust.
What’s in it for me?
I’ve heard this an awful lot of times, not just in the academe. I hear it when I ask a favor from someone, when I’m about to purchase something, when my parents oblige me to do certain tasks… what’s in it for me? There must a direct benefit, tangible or intangible.
It can be psychological, a freebie, a helpful trivia, the satisfaction of a newfound friend, the thrill of being among the few privileged ones to know about a new product–anything that they will get from conversing with you.
These are but a few pointers that might actually work, especially since it’s from a viewpoint of someone who’s willing to be engaged, if in the right way. Companies don’t have to start fake conversations. Give some time and someone is bound to know that a dog is, indeed, a dog.