Return on Interaction: Understanding Your Audience

Photo cred: David Sim
Photo cred: David Sim

There’s a lot of focus on the return on Social Media Engagement.  If we invest into social media, what will we get in return?  Usually the answer utilizes metrics, metrics, benchmarking, goal alignment, and metrics.  That’s great and mostly true.

Some business practices, however, are completely immeasurable.  There aren’t always metrics to track the amount of return.  Many aspects of the return on interaction are not measurable, but still essential.

Ultimately business is about people.  It is identifying a need, or want, that people have and solving that need in a manner that is more efficient than the previous method, or lack thereof.

Social media helps you understand people.  By interacting, conversing and engaging with your customers, you are able to understand their needs.  It’s not fast, it’s not easy, and it’s not something that you can necessarily track, but it’s vital to any business that intends to be successful beyond the current status quo.

Things change, trends come and go, and along with it changes the needs of your customers.  No traditional market research method will help you truly understand the changing needs of your customers as well as legitimate, sincere interaction.

Don’t lose sight of your customers’ needs…

  1. Look for any feedback customers have about your product or service. Encourage it.
  2. If you can’t get any feedback, look at what your customers like about your competitors…are they fulfilling their need better than you are?
  3. Ask questions, answer questions, start conversations and partake in ones that already exist…but be real.  Lose the agenda. Just learn.
  4. Stay involved in the community in any way possible, and that means contributing, not just seeking information.
  5. The best way to understand a community is to be a part of it.  It’s not always about being the community leader.  Sometimes, it’s better to just blend in…you’re just another member.

If you’re not interacting with your customers, in their community, you’ll slowly lose your understanding of their needs and become irrelevant when someone else applies their service to the current needs of your customer

People may not always tell you want they want or what they need.  Sometimes, they don’t know what they need, they just know they need something.

If you’re consistently active in your customers’ communication channels, they won’t have to tell you, you’ll already know.

Perhaps this is why companies that once seemed to rule the world (Microsoft) end up losing momentum to companies that seemed like niche, small players early on (Apple).  Apple is currently doing a lot of things right, but if they don’t continue to recognize the changes in their customers needs, and adapt, the same will happen to them, as it did to Microsoft, as it’s happening to MySpace, as it did to every company who lost sight of their customers’ needs.

A company that’s doing a great job of learning their customer’s needs and applying them to their service is Seesmic.  They pump out updates before you even realize you needed them.

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