In a world (and a worldwide web) where there is a deluge of information and a multiplatform reality, brands need to open dialogue with their customers for a very simple reason; to get their attention and engage them.
Talking to consumers just doesn’t cut it anymore; pushing products doesn’t work anymore. Consumers' expectations from brands are on the rise, and if you are not talking with your customers as opposed to at them, you will find yourself falling far behind in the battle to attract and retain consumers.
So how do you talk with your customers? You start a conversation like you would with a friend.
If your “friend” comments on social media and mentions you, you respond. If you have questions about one of your products or services, ask them on social media. Engage your customers like you would your friends.
The masters of the brand universe are talking fast and furious with their consumers. In 2014, McDonalds went the extra mile and launched a campaign to answer some very uncomfortable questions posed by customers such as “Why do your chicken McNuggets include anti-foaming agent?” and “Do you use so-called ‘Pink Slime’ in your burgers?”
They even hired former Mythbusters host Grant Imahara to investigate what McDonalds fries are actually made of (real potatoes after all). They did not stop there with their effort to create relevant content for their customers and keep them engaged, but went on to produce a video with Imahara explaining all 19 ingredients that go into making their infamous fries. With this effort, McDonald’s ensured that fans and sceptics alike knew exactly what they were consuming and put several damaging rumours to rest once and for all.
Financial titan American Express has been surfing ahead in the content business for almost a decade now. AmEx OPEN forum was launched in 2007 with the sole purpose of helping small businesses succeed. Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, SVP of Partnership & Business Development, explains, “We already had a large part of the pie, so our biggest opportunity was with small business growth –if they grow, we grow.”
AmEx had the foresight to create a platform where they can start a conversation with small business owners, offer beneficial and valuable information, receive and answer questions, and connect business owners.
Well aware that most people love sharing their opinions, in 2014, Nissan sparked a conversation with its customers by asking them to tweet their ideas about what kind of technology should be in the special version of the Juke NISMO (using the hashtag #Jukeride). Suggestions started rolling in by the hundreds and to maintain and capitalize on the momentum, Nissan uploaded behind-the-scenes videos showing customers how the company was using their suggestions.
Brands like Virgin, Oreo, Tesco and TacoBell also have great conversations with their customers. Their brand personalities come through their tweets as funny, cheeky, friendly or caring, and customers respond and love having a direct line to their favourite brands. They not only want to be heard but also to be listened to and acknowledged. So how can you start a conversation with your customers? Your first step is to target your audience. After that identify what you want to talk to them about and the tone you want to use and then start – whether by launching a campaign, asking a question, asking for ideas or opinions and engage. As a result of your effort, your brand will become more humanized, more familiar to your customers and most important of all, more trustworthy.