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Dialogue and Social Media: Playing Offense instead of Defense

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Dialogue and Social Media: Playing Offense instead of Defense
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Do you remember when Seth Godin first released Permission Marketing? At the time I had just joined Frequency Marketing and I can recall my boss Pat LaPointe handing me the book and telling me it was a must-read. I gobbled it up and soon after helped the company build permission and dialogue into its communications offerings.

Back then, our goal was to make every piece of loyalty communications as relevant as possible, striving for the holy grail of one-to-one marketing. But limited to direct mail and e-mail, our messaging wasn’t so much one-to-one as it was one-to-many. It was just too cost prohibitive to personalize every mailing, so we had to “bucket” customers into specific messaging streams.

Of course, with the advent of social media, achieving a true dialogue with customers through one-to-one communications has actually become doable. Via leading social sites like Facebook and Twitter, you now have the opportunity to truly engage with customers in real-time. In fact, most of your customers expect it.

Yet it recently struck me that most marketers play social media on defense. When it comes to engaging with customers in a true customer dialogue, they’re in a reactionary mode, not a proactive one. So the company-customer dialogue works like this:

A company has a person or team assigned to monitor the social space. They search for tweets or posts that call out the brand or product by name, and when they spot one, they spring into action. Most of the time it’s to address a problem or customer care issue that has surfaced. Sometimes it’s to say thanks for a compliment. But either way, it’s all about playing defense.

When it comes to offense, for most marketers the social media game plan is to blast out Facebook posts and tweets with promo hashtags, then wait for customers to respond. But there’s a vital piece missing. The one-to-one interaction or dialogue that recognizes me as a valued customer.

I believe there’s a huge missed opportunity here, and it’s the chance to proactively engage with best customers via social media—not because something is wrong, or because you have a new promotion or product to push—but because you want to engage them in a relevant dialogue to show these customers you really care about them.

For example, what if American Airlines reached out to me after a flight and asked me how things went? Or if my local Bonefish seafood restaurant let me know my favorite fresh seafood dish was now available? Or the Doubletree hotel let me know they were glad my family was visiting again and I could have a late check-out?

It would be possible—if these chains had made the effort to collect my personal social media information and had it on file. They could then use their massive databases to cross-reference my activities and personal preferences to proactively reach out to me via Facebook and Twitter.

I was recently reminded why this was so important by the godfather of permission marketing and dialogue himself, Seth Godin. In one of his recent blog posts he wrote:

Dialogue leads to connection, which leads to trust which leads to engagement.

Godin also points out that “in today’s over-saturated communications world” it can be exceedingly difficult to hold a dialogue, yet the attempt to engage with a customer is “demonstrably better than the alternative”. Because the alternative is still the mass-blasting of communications, even if the vehicles have changed from on-air media to social media.

So what’s holding you up? Are you using social media to hold a relevant dialogue and engage with your most valued customers? If not, why not?

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