If content is king, engagement is the sword in the stone – the means by which content earns and retains high favor. A great way to create engagement is to promote interactivity on your site and on your social outlets, creating UGC, or User Generated Content. It is a great idea for your brand voice to address user comments on each of your channels, so long as it is done in the right way. Think of it as a reworking of the age old marketing concept of CRM, or Customer Relationship Management. The SEO benefits will come naturally.
I recently did a content audit for J. Crew’s Jack Knows Best section, and part of that included testing out their “Ask Jack” email question.
One of their head stylists, Jack O’Connor, fields email queries related to all things fashion and style, and many of these questions serve as the impetus for longer responses as content pieces, a nice way of letting users contribute to the editorial calendar.
In a casual office, how do I retain style with a Jeans/T-Shirt combo or maybe a polo shirt and khakis look, and not confuse these outfits with weekend attire?
A little under 2 hours later, I received this response…
It’s all about the balance. Pull in a pair of nice shoes, such as our Alden Bluchers, to help balance out the casual feel of the jeans and tee.
Hope this helps.
What I’d like to draw attention to is not their style or its implication from a marketing perspective. I’d simply like to draw attention to the fact that they responded at all and with a quick turnaround time, and why it is important to consistently respond, regardless of whether it is via email, social channel, or on-site comment.
From a branding & awareness standpoint, responding is a no-brainer: you’re starting the conversation, it’s only right that you chime in. It gives your brand the unique opportunity to spread the brand voice and persona, interact with your most loyal customers, and execute plugs for products and services as well, if that is your agenda.
But here’s why you can’t afford to not respond, and it has everything to do with SEO:
- Play Moderator – Without your participation, a comments section has the potential to get off subject, spiral into an unwanted conversation, or hit a wall and cease to continue. Chime in from time to time and respond to the best comment out of the bunch, or the popular sentiment shared by a number of commenters. Bring it back around, and leave off with a new talking point. Google needs to see continual updates and recently posted content. When you feel the party dying down or getting too rowdy, bring it back to a comfortable level and keep the conversation going.
- Re-visit! – Going along with playing moderator, responding and commenting allows you an opportunity to draw users back to the same page, post, or content piece to read what you had to say. A good, ongoing conversation means more page views, time on-site, and more chances that users will continue to leave comments, click-thru to links, etc… Think of every page or post as a conversation hub unto itself; cultivating that hub should be a goal.
- Water the Seed – This is the big one. Water the seeds of engagement. Someone leaving a comment anywhere on your site or social outlets is a success: you’ve successfully generated engagement. It would seem that the job is largely over…and it is. However, if you wish for that person to continue to leave comments and questions, and this is especially true for questions, you need to make sure that you show that person that you are engaging in a dialogue with him/her. They have clicked-thru to your page, spent the time on-site absorbing your content, and have left a comment. Maybe they have even tweeted @ you. Responding is essential to turning one-time users into loyal, returning users. They’ve planted the seed there for you. Now you need to water it so that it grows and thrives. What’s at stake, at least from our perspective, is not a future sale or conversion, but future engagement metrics and interaction with the brand that will bolster your site’s authority and rankings.
Methodology: Emails deserves email responses. Facebook, as well as most on-site comment sections, easily facilitate response comments. Twitter is unique, but Inc.com recently offered up a great way to approach customer service using Twitter in its Twitter for Business: 10 Things You Should Tweet:
5. The we’re listening to you tweet:
“Twitter is an amazing tool for customer service. If you fail to monitor what is being said about your company on Twitter you’re making a huge mistake. Simply monitoring the messages and taking no action is a mistake, too. Only when you monitor and respond appropriately will you get the full value of Twitter as a customer service tool. This doesn’t mean that you have to respond to every negative statement, but when there is a real issue or if a person has a specific question, you need to address it quickly and honestly.”
Think of it as the age-old sales tactic of “nurturing the leads and existing relationships”, re-thought and executed for the web. Your end goal is not conversions, but traffic and engagement metrics. And the opportunities for conversions and leads will open up naturally from there.
Photo Credit: Social Community, A strong online community will yield good UGC, questions, and comments.
Photo Credit: Comment Box, http://www.winningprogressive.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Comments-Box2.jpg