Customer engagement, brand engagement, social media engagement: you hear these phrases all the time. These days engagement really has become the crux of marketing and advertising. It is said with absolute certainty, without a shadow of a doubt, that for any marketing initiative to be successful, it must engage the audience. But just what is engagement? What does the verb, to engage, actually mean in terms of marketing? And how does the marketer achieve that all-so-crucial engaging effect?

The process of engagement can be broken down into three main elements. Firstly, you must capture attention. Secondly, there must be something that the audience can interact with. And lastly, that interaction must be positive. If any of these three elements are absent from the process then the audience will fail to engage.

The process of engagement can be broken down into three main elements.

So, an audience is engaged when it notices and interacts positively with something. That’s good to know! But how do we begin the process? How do we understand precisely what is going to capture attention and cause a positive interaction?

Consumers ‘Heart’ Brands

It is a fact that consumers build emotional relationships with brands. So much so that if a brand ‘upsets’ a consumer, even if that consumer adores its products, they will break off the relationship. Such upset could be caused by, for example, failing to acknowledge a comment, suggestion or, worse still, a complaint.

A survey conducted by Lithium Technologies revealed that for 76 per cent of customers, how they are treated by brands is as important as the products they are buying from them. The study exposed how a negative experience can lead to reputation damage for a brand, with 65 per cent of respondents stating that one bad experience would be sufficient for them to leave a brand, regardless of how they valued its products. 76 per cent said they would never use a brand’s products again following a negative experience, and 57 per cent would recommend family and friends steer clear too.

Consumers build emotional relationships with brands: fact.

When a consumer is emotionally involved with a brand, they have a tendency to form ‘communities’ with other people: people they share the same ‘love’ with. Brand communities are highly valuable marketing assets. They fuel brand reputation through word of mouth, social media sharing and of course, with hard cash purchases. Providing the relationship remains positive, these consumers will remain loyal for life.

But the question is: how do you create that emotional involvement? How do you turn followers into customers? How do you engage?

How to Engage?

It all starts with analysis. In order to grab attention, you need to know what pulls the strings of your audience. So you need to study its needs, loves, hates, pains and behavioural tendencies. And you need to understand how your potential customers tend to interact, because after attention grabbing, as we said, comes interaction.

We talked about machine learning in a previous post, and how it is revolutionising digital marketing. Machine learning is a method used to analyse consumer behaviours and can help to determine various things of great value to the marketer. Whilst it has been possible up until now to manually identify what audiences want to hear, marketers have still been posed with the challenge of identifying the right medium and tone of voice for brand storytelling – in other words – the means to engage by saying the right things at the right time on the right platforms and in the right way.

Relevance is key: it always has been, but at least now there is, thanks to machine learning, a glimmer of hope in terms of ways of making our marketing efforts pertinent.

When we looked in a previous post at how the Internet of Things is shaping the digital marketing landscape, we discovered that personalisation had the greatest influence on click through rate over and above timing and design and that 75 per cent of UK marketers agreed that personalisation led to higher click through rates.

It’s obvious really: you know that when something lands in your inbox or appears in your social feeds that is non-relevant, i.e. not personal to you, you automatically delete or ignore it. However, when it means something to you, it has a far better chance of grabbing your attention. But how to enhance your prospects of making that attention grab effective?

Making communications relevant is the only way to effectively grab attention.

Eight Seconds, Then That’s it

Going back to emotional involvement, research has revealed that grabbing attention depends for the most part on successfully instigating two emotions: surprise and joy. If you are going to maximise engagement then you will need to generate at least one of these very early on in the process. And now is the time to remind ourselves that the average attention span of a consumer is eight seconds. There’s nothing like a challenge!

So to recap, in order to engage, we need to make our ads, content and messages relevant and we need to make the people viewing them feel joyful and / or surprised. And then we need to allow them to interact in the way they feel most comfortable with, and that interaction needs to be positive.

Questions then to derive from your data analysis:

  1. What do your prospective customers tend to buy at certain times of the year?
  2. What is their average spending range?
  3. Do they prefer to buy online or in-store?
  4. How do they like to communicate and interact, what platforms do they prefer to use and at what times of day?
  5. What topics concern them? What makes them react emotionally?
  6. What sort of language / tone of voice do they prefer?

And what about joy and surprise? Here are some ideas to create…

  • Surprise… at a very special offer that’s been personalised to individual preferences
  • Joy… at learning there is a way of buying something that would otherwise be inaccessible
  • Surprise… at the positive results other consumers have experienced using your products
  • Joy… at being rewarded for loyalty
  • Surprise… at being gifted a birthday or Mother’s Day or Christmas present ‘just because’
  • Joy… at a response that makes your prospective customer feel special, acknowledged and appreciated

So there you have it, in not quite a nutshell, how to engage an audience. Why not give it a try? Follow the steps on a small scale and see how it works, then branch out to a wider audience. Otherwise, if you could use some help in engaging customers through digital and social marketing, you could always talk to Figment!