When it comes to converting consumers into customers, strategic communications is an essential tool. Whether you are part of a startup organization or a 100-year-old industry leader, the critical mandate for business success is to drive awareness and consideration for your products or services. The trick is to sustain an initiative that leads to engagement over time by moving your target from awareness, toward familiarity and finally purchase. Too many organizations simply pursue the one-off – a flashing trade show push, a new product introduction announcement or a sponsored content campaign; but then fail to link their communications and marketing efforts to maximize results.
At the core of every purchasing decision is emotion. People buy products that they feel good about, and whatever the product may be, perception truly counts. These perceptions may be tied to past experiences with a brand or its products, or simply reputation. The key is to engage potential customers to build a relationship.
One way many companies build engagement is through comment sections on their websites as an owned forum for creating two-way communication and relationships. When comments are genuine, they can elevate the conversation and allow for real connections to be built. However, this lofty ideal sometimes isn’t borne out by reality, a situation best described by The Washington Post as follows: “What the comments section actually is in this supercharged partisan media environment is a mud pit where the only rule is there are no rules. And when fighting in a mud pit, no one comes out clean.”
In addition to failing to build positive engagement, toxic comment sections can actively drive away other potential customers. Some companies respond by shutting down comment sections entirely. However, before throwing the baby out with the bathwater, it’s important to evaluate whether eliminating a forum for positive engagement is worth it to avoid a few negative interactions that could have been managed.
For those companies who remain committed to maintaining their comment sections as a tool to drive engagement, the key is to have someone dedicated to managing its content in real time. The same applies to social media — the cost of letting negative comments go without a rapid response is too high. So, although customer engagement may be the holy grail, active management of the engagement itself is the best way to ensure that it remains an asset to your enterprise.