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How to best engage with social network users

How to best engage with social network users

By Bob Barker, VP of Corporate Marketing and Digital Engagement for Alterian.

Martha Lane Fox’s recent ‘Networked Nation’ manifesto has made an inspiring call to action to encourage as many new people as possible to get online by the end of 2012.

Research from the manifesto has shown that there are currently ten million adults who have never used the internet.

As the government and industry continue to expand into digital-only services, and the economy continues to recover, it is crucial that consumers have the technology and ability to enjoy these services.

Martha’s manifesto outlines many benefits, both economic and social, for a networked nation. But it is not just about the consumer or customers, businesses that want to grow and drive brand advocacy have to strive for the same goal.

Now more than ever there is an urgent need for corporations to respond to the opportunities and challenges of a major social change that is seeing the mass empowerment of the customer and increase in levels of personal engagement.

If their customers are all online and actively engaging through the internet by the end of 2012, then brands and companies need to also be engaging.

Recent research has shown that over 60% of organisations do not have a social media strategy in place, which means many of them are not even listening, let alone communicating.

The technology that has empowered the customer – internet and mobile devices – is also the technology that combined with data collection and analysis solutions, can allow a corporation to respond and build a new form of more personal, individualised engagement.

There is now an expectation of engagement from the individual and preparedness from them to exchange personal information to encourage and develop relationships with brands. A few weeks ago George Osborne announced the emergency budget and with that confirmed that the TV license fee will fund expansion of broadband coverage across the UK.

The new coalition government has already promised to “invest in our digital infrastructure” and with Martha Lane Fox’s call to action, consumers are on track to learn and use digital and online services. But the real call to action must be to the organisations and brands to also join the networked nation and truly engage with the individuals.

For years in marketing we have just pumped one message, email or website page at everyone. To engage the individual you have to look at the strengths of direct marketing and expand them – understand the individual at an address level, household level, examine digital channels, and make the digital channels individual channels.

For example, when customers come on to your website as a result of an email you have sent them, the website can alter its content to take this into account. The intelligence you built around that customer in order to email them, means you know them and can identify them if they land on your website. If the customer can interact with you, they will build a relationship with you. Recent research conducted by Alterian revealed that 31% of UK respondents using social media believe that ‘companies are genuinely interested in them.’

As more and more consumers go online, share information about brands and as advancements in technology continue to turn consumers from passive observers into active participants, they will be the ones with the power to shape corporate reputations.

Against the background of recession and an economy no longer so benign, corporations need to stand out among their global competitors - it will be all about the survival of the socially fit!

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