Guest Post by: Jo Stratmann

By now we all know that social media can help put our customers at the heart of our business.

With this in mind, Lauren Carlson from Software Advice recently pinned down Brian Solis to discuss his definition of engagement.

Solis responded with what he calls the six rules of engagement: value, efficiency, trust, consistency, relevance and control. Let’s take a look at this to see how they can be applied as part of your engagement strategy:

1. Value

Consumers want to feel valued by the companies they do business with. Feeling valued translates to knowing that the company or brand will go above and beyond to meet your needs.

How to achieve this: Use social media to help you stay in touch with your customers in a personal way. In the “old days” this would be making a phone call, and there’s nothing wrong with doing that today too, but you should also try to respond directly to tweets and other comments on social channels. You could also set up a loyalty program to reward return business, or offer discounts through social media channels to your most loyal customers to help them feel valued.

2. Efficiency

With the rise of new technology, particularly mobile, processes that used to be long and laborious are now happening much more quickly. Because of this, customers expect the same level of expediency when dealing with businesses.

How to achieve this: Consider how efficient your site is for mobile access and mobile purchasing. Also, instead of using call centers to deal with customer queries and concerns, think about using Twitter, Facebook or a live chat module for real-time support.

3.Trust

Consumers need to be confident in the credibility of your business and the product, actions and services that you deliver. With the rise of social media customers are trusting brand messages less and are turning to the advice of friends, peers and “people like them” to make their decisions.

How to achieve this: It’s been said time and again but be honest and transparent in all communications, across whatever channel. If a company builds trust through honesty and transparency, their customers will feel more confident to recommend the company or brand to others through social media. Don’t bombard your audience with your own brand messages and agenda; listen to what people are saying about you and join in the conversation in a natural, organic way to gain their trust.

4. Consistency

It is common for companies to offer multiple channels for communication with their customers. Offering multiple channels is a good thing, however there is no value unless the service you provide is consistent across each one.

How to achieve this: Don’t offer something you can’t deliver on. It is more valuable to have three consistent channels as opposed to six fickle ones that do not really engage with your customers. There is no point having a Facebook page or a Twitter profile just to have what you believe is a presence on there, if your customers are posting and commenting and getting no response or interaction.

5. Relevance

Many companies use social media as another means of advertising. They essentially spam social media profiles, blogs and marketing emails with product-centric information. However, that’s not what the consumer wants – engagement needs to be relevant.

How to achieve this: When potential and existing customers visit your blog, Twitter, Facebook page etc, they want to find information that is interesting and focused on their needs. Use social media monitoring to listen to what your customers are saying and identify your influencers or people who form part of your target audience. Engage with these people on their terms and only interact with them if you have a relevant message, or something of value, to offer them.

6. Control

We have heard over and over again that the customer is in control. But the idea of control is two-fold. It is clear that customers want a sense of control in that they want to choose the channel they communicate on, and they want the ability to opt in and out of specific engagements. In other words, they want an experience that gives them the sense of control.

How to achieve this: This is an interesting analysis of the word control. It puts the onus back on the businesses to still control the customer experience as a whole; it’s just that now, with the rise of social media, the customer can choose where and when they want to interact with a brand, if at all.  What Solis seems to be suggesting is that businesses should gain consumer insight and design an experience that provides the user the choice to interact with you or not (so ‘control’ in that sense of the word). Look at your key customer touchpoints to see where social media can add real value to your business.

Original Post: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/12/putting-the-customer-first-the-6-rules-of-online-engagement/