When you close your eyes and imagine the sound of a barking dog, what does it conjure up for you?

Context rules

barketing barking-dog, the myndset digital marketing

Credit for image: http://bit.ly/1foPhtx

Is the image in your mind of a cute and cuddly dog you owned or own?  Is it the neighbor’s annoying miniature schnauzer?  Was it a snarly dog you came across in the street?  Or, a lovely lab you saw on some person’s Facebook page (courtesy of my friend Jill)?  Bottom line: the answer will depend on your context.

School of barketing

As marketers, we have all been trained to bark.  For those of us marketing practitioners who have been at it for several decades, our career paths were paved by always finding new and creative ways to bark to get attention.  Moreover, agencies were paid to produce barketable ads.  And, consumers sometimes found the dog friendly.  More often than not, the dog was unwanted; increasingly, consumers wanted to run away from it.  Today, the “barketing” has had to calm down.  Not that one-way broadcasting doesn’t still have its place.  Ads that show a woman with her sparkling clean white t-shirt after using some fabulous, clinically proven detergent continue to infest the airwaves.  However, the need — with the payload — today is to create more engaging interactions with customers.  This means working on the context (platform, device, timing…) of the delivery as much as revising the content (message, tone, voice). {Please click to tweet if you agree!}

5 keys to foster engagement

Upstream, the most important notion is to understand clearly who one is and for what one stands.  The core question is branding and the big challenge is making sure that the brand values are baked into the organization and lived by the employees first and foremost.  Here are my top 5 ways to foster engagement.

  1. Mindset.  First off, don’t expect an immediate return.  If you craft your message on the expectation of an immediate benefit, it’s like trying to accelerate friendship.  The chances of creating an enduring relationship are diminished.  How to detect the right mindset?  You can generally start with the objectives and the timeframe.  If they are short-term and money focused, engagement will be near impossible to foster.  Another sign of the wrong mindset: When the boss harps on about “how can we own the relationship?”  Bottom line: you don’t and can’t own the relationship.  Any more than a husband owns a wife.
  2. Creative.  As rational as leaders tend to be, the real opportunity comes from enabling greater creative license.  This will involve delving into the emotional space, taking some risks and, certainly, rooting out the best talent.  Creativity needs to apply to the text (great copywriting), image (i.e. not stock photos) and layout (appropriate for or native to each platform).  What does creative look like?  Unfortunately, by definition, it’s not possible to predict or cookie cut.  But, bringing an experimental mindset probably helps.  Bottom line: creativity in execution will depend on the internal decision making process as much as the quality of the talent at the agency.
  3. Responsive.  When questions are asked of your consumer base, it’s important to be there when they answer.  I read a post on Facebook the other day from the leading retailer in the UK where, on the Monday morning, the customer service team came back and answered all the weekend’s customer comments.  The result was a cacaphonic, asynchronous and ineffective conversation.  If you can’t put in place a responsive system and team, then (a) at least, be up front about this on the page and (b) consider carefully whether social media is the right space to engage.  Bottom line:  Engaging conversations happen now, in real time.
  4. Authentic.  Make sure that you are being consistent with who you are and what you stand for.  Trying too hard or being too polished (aka corporate) is a quick road to disengagement.  Is the conversation natural or does each post need to be approved?  Bottom line: authenticity starts inside out.
  5. Personal.  I like to talk about how branding needs to get personal.  This means, in practical terms, making the marketing approach on social media more like having a conversation.  Possibly, start off with some small talk.  Ask about them (with real intent to listen)… People have had enough of barking brands.  What they want to know more about is the soft tissue below the bark (of the tree, too).  A good place to start is in employee engagement.  Bottom line: it’s the people who move the product.

All this engagement is good and effective only when you have a great product with a point of difference.  So, just like the good old days, it is still best to work on the basics before trying to sophisticate your barketing. {Please click to tweet if you agree!}

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