We have to earn our audience’s attention

This is a guest post from Drew McLellan, CEO and Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

We have to earn our audience’s attention. Let’s see how you’re doing at that.

listen and ignore switch
If you own or run a business, I’d like to you take this little quiz.

  1. Would you ignore your business phone 30% of the time it rings?
  2. If a customer was standing in a crowd of your best customers and complaining loudly, would you ignore them?
  3. If you had the chance to have the attention of your best customers and your best prospects for about three minutes uninterrupted, would you talk incessantly about yourself?

I have to believe that all of you passed this quiz by answered “good golly no!” to all three questions. After all, you hustle like crazy to capture the attention of your customers and potential customers, right? Only a fool would squander the opportunity once they earned it.

And yet… that is exactly what’s happening online every day.

  • 30% of customer questions and comments on Facebook, Twitter, and company blogs go unanswered.
  • 71% of complaints on Twitter are ignored.
  • 89% of corporate blogs only talk about themselves, their products, promotions and awards.

No wonder so many business people say that they can’t measure any ROI on their social media efforts. If anything, their ROI should come up as a negative number!

Too many businesses believe that social media networks are simply places they need to put a placeholder in. Like a flag that says, “Look, we exist here too” and then go to some autopilot shout into the abyss mentality. The core idea behind Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or any of the other networks out there is connection.

Real, human connection.

It’s why people share photos, stories of their day, and get fired up about politics, religion, and what their kid’s school is up to. And into that very personal and very meaningful conversation — most brands just blunder in and shout that they are having a sale.

Ugh.

Businesses spend thousands (and some millions) of dollars putting on elaborate dog and pony shows, with the hopes of capturing someone’s attention for a millisecond. So the assumption would be that they would actually value the attention, once they’d earned it.

But the truth is, most businesses think of social media as the newest necessary evil. They can’t get out of their own way enough to see the potential in it or that they need to approach it with humanity for it to work.

So what would that humanity look like?

Real interactions: When someone talks to you, it’s polite to reply in a reasonable amount of time. If you can’t monitor and react to a social media stream — don’t be there. Every social media tool out there has a way for you to be notified if you’ve actually started or were mentioned in a conversation.

Conversation, not monologue: No one enjoys being talked at. Your goal should be to spark conversation, not spit out rhetoric. Conversations are started when we care about the other person and ask questions, offer helpful information and listen to what they need from us.

Consistency: Just like all of our other relationships — we grow connections partially because of frequent exposures. You can’t get to know someone very well if you only communicate once or twice a year. It’s better to be fewer places but be in the places you’ve chosen more often. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Having a heart: If you don’t actually care — then don’t be there. If you genuinely care about your customers and what’s going on with them, then show that by asking questions, reaching out and being very human.

You can create an amazing referral source and client base with your online presence or you can alienate those who already have you on their radar screen. All it takes is a little humanity to make it work.

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About Drew McLellan

Wall Street Journal calls Drew McLellan’s blog, DrewsMarketingMinute.com, "one of the ten blogs every entrepreneur should read." His passion is helping clients discover their story so they can create authentic love affairs with their customers. He's also an author, national speaker, and has owned his own marketing agency in the Midwest since 1995.

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