For years the brands have chased consumers and tried everything and anything to engage us. Every kind of metrics for measuring methods of engagement have been developed and deployed all to justify the expense and effort behind these engagement initiatives.
In the old days every trick of the trade was used to capture eyeballs and attention to get us to provide user information, email addressed and to create an emotional response.
In the end we did in fact engage but only to be disappointed by the experience and sales hype that followed. Over promised and under delivered we took to blocking telemarketing calls, banner ads and spam email. Then we began to engage with each other.
Now that we are engaging with each other companies are still trying to figure out how to engage with us the way we engage with others. The social web has become a fertile ground for more attempts to engage us. Facebook, Linkedin and every social network on the planet is supported by advertising models with text and ad graphics vying for our attention.
Businesses are spending time and money trying to figure out how to engage customers and the mantra of the moment is “customer engagement”. Management consultants and marketing gurus are spinning and defining customer engagement as if it were yet another new phenomenon. According Wikipedia and the self appointed experts Online Customer Engagement (CE) refers to:
1. A social phenomenon enabled by the wide adoption of the internet in the late 1990s and taking off with the technical developments in connection speed (broadband) in the decade that followed. Online CE is qualitatively different from the engagement of consumers offline.
2. The behavior of customers that engage in online communities revolving, directly or indirectly, around product categories (cycling, sailing) and other consumption topics. It details the process that leads to a customer’s positive engagement with the company or offering, as well as the behaviors associated with different degrees of customer engagement.
3. Marketing practices that aim to create, stimulate or influence customer behavior. Although CE-marketing efforts must be consistent both online and offline, the internet is the basis of CE-marketing.(Eisenberg & Eisenberg 2006:72,81)
4. Metrics that measure the effectiveness of the marketing practices which seek to create, stimulate or influence CE behavior.
Is It Really Vendor Engagement?
Those who push the “Customer Engagement theme suggest that online customer engagement is qualitatively different from offline Customer Engagement as the nature of the customer’s interactions with a brand, company and other customers differ on the internet. Discussion forums or blogs, for example, are spaces where people can communicate and socialize in ways that cannot be replicated by any offline interactive medium.
The reason it is different is because it is the customer who decides which vendor to engage with, not the vendor deciding for the customer. The rise of online user generated content is taking advocacy to a much higher level.
Vendor Engagement enables people to respond to the fundamental changes in brand behavior that the internet has brought about, as well as to the increasing ineffectiveness of the traditional ‘interrupt and repeat’, broadcast model of advertising.
Due to the fragmentation and specialization of media and audiences, as well as the proliferation of community- and user generated content, businesses are increasingly losing the power to dictate the communications agenda. Instead the customer, people, are dictating the agenda.
Enabling the contributions of people (suppliers, employees and customers) is an important source of competitive advantage – whether through advertising, user generated product reviews, customer service FAQs, forums where people can socialize with one another or contribute to product development. However, If you want to engage people the first thing you have to do is recognize that your the vendor and the people you call customers are the ones now doing the engaging, not you.
For traditional markets the question is no longer “how will you engage” rather “how will you respond”.
What say you?