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Context Is King in Driving Participation and Sales

  |  November 2, 2010   |  Comments

For most brands, customers won't initiate and build a valuable brand conversation on their own - it's the brand's job to start a conversation customers want to join.

There's a saying that where there is focus, there is growth. The same is true as it relates to your customers' participation. So you've reached a thousand followers, now what? How do you focus their conversation into something valuable for other customers? For your brand?

When it comes to customer conversations, context is king. For most brands, customers won't initiate and build a valuable brand conversation on their own - it's the brand's job to start a conversation customers want to join. Here are some tips for building context that gets customers engaged in ways that help you sell.

Give Customers a Topic - Something to Get Them Thinking and Talking

In the context of an open brand community or social network page, only a small percentage of customers will be initiators, those who comment without a prompt. And of those initiators, an even smaller percentage will leave comments relevant to helping other customers buy. To increase valuable participation, you have to give your community context.

Invite customers to respond and react to your prompts around topics relevant to your brand. On Facebook, for example, you can encourage fans to post pictures or video of themselves using your products or engaging in relevant activities. Golfsmith, for example, encourages its Facebook fans to post pictures of their great golf shots, connecting their passion for the game to the Golfsmith brand. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to conduct polls on brand-relevant topics, sparking opinionated conversations that keep people talking. Tactics like these give your communities relevant context, and give your fans something to talk about.

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Engage Customers Around Topics That Matter to Them

Too often, I see brands expecting active, engaging conversations just to spring up around their customers' love for their products. "Tell us what you love about our brand!" is a prompt I see far too frequently.

It's important to remember that your customers online are real people, with real interests and questions. If you contextualize a conversation around something they like, love, or want to help, they are more likely participate. These interests may not be directly tied to your brand or products, but can be related to the feelings or causes your brand invokes (or would like to invoke).

Skincare brand Philosophy, for example, asked customers to share stories of their moms' philosophies in a Mother's Day campaign. Not only did customers submit over 1,000 stories, but analysis showed that 39 percent of all site traffic for May originated on these stories' pages. Writers and readers shared stories with others, bringing new visitors to Philosophy's e-commerce site who may not have considered the brand before.

Match Your User-Generated Content to Your Customer Needs

Shoppers bring their own context: tasks, needs, questions. They come to any page on your website with something on their minds. And as we know, they trust other customers' words more than your brand's. Match the conversational content your customers have created back to the context shoppers have on your site, and it's a win-win situation for everyone.

Reviews and questions are the purest forms of contextual conversation - a shopper is viewing your product, so you show questions people like them have about it, and authentic testimonials and answers from people like them who have bought it. If customers are reviewing and asking questions about your products on social networks, be sure to syndicate this content back to your product pages where it can help shoppers buy.

Context is king in creating conversations that are valuable for both your customers and your brand. Building good context, and recognizing your shoppers' own context, focuses these conversations to drive sales.

Note: Golfsmith and Philosophy are Bazaarvoice clients.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Decker

Sam Decker is founder and CEO of Mass Relevance, the leading enterprise social curation company. He speaks and consults on digital growth strategy, based on years of experience in technology and social markets. He has written two books on word-of-mouth marketing and is an award-winning blogger (www.deckermarketing.com). As former chief marketing officer of Bazaarvoice, the market leader in hosted social commerce applications that drive sales, Sam worked to help brands present the right user-generated content at the right time in the purchase path, bringing real value to the consumer and the business. Prior to Bazaarvoice he drove Dell's customer segmentation, their customer-centricity strategy, and led Dell's consumer website, building Dell.com into the largest consumer e-commerce site at $3.5 billion in annual sales.

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