When you have an online presence, it stands to reason that people are going to talk about your product, and it makes sense to connect with your customers by joining in the conversation. If you’re a part of the conversation, then you have a great opportunity to influence that conversation, change perceptions and to create new advocates for your brand. But how can you scale your activities so that you connect with your audience and encourage them to connect with their networks? You need a plan. Your plan and activities must be structured to include everyone in the company who plans to connect with their audience. You need some guidelines.


  • You’ve recognised that your digital marketing and engagement approaches complement but do not replace your traditional methods of marketing. Traditional marketing is a timed, well controlled message delivered in a push campaign via various mechanisms and tracked via click-throughs, offer uptake and positive press reports.

  • Your plan is to adopt some form of digital conversation and to bring a two-way dialogue into your marketing efforts and involve the voice of the customer. The new marketing is not about direct push any more, it’s not about a two-way conversation.

  • Take advice from others who have succeeded in this space. Successful companies who use these social tools listen first and sell second. In general, they act like aggregators and content providers rather than traditional advertisers, breaking the traditional marketing model.

  • New media marketing provides valuable feedback about the brand whilst raising awareness about the brand offering. If the product is in beta, then this feedback loop can often drive the design of finished product which is more attractive to the consumer when the product launches.

Another advantage of using this type of customer engagement to market your brand is authenticity. Consumers value the interaction with the company, whether it’s with you as a person, your team, or the organisation more broadly. The value is gained by having the direct connections with the consumer. In traditional marketing, this role is generally fulfilled by the PR spokesperson, someone who has been briefed in corporate messaging and ensures that the correct brand image is communicated. With these types of tools, everyone becomes a spokesperson. Anything you say on networking platforms can be perceived as being the ’official company line’ so everyone with a public persona or online brand must be cognisant of corporate guidelines for social media and follow the corporate code of conduct.

Dealing with your company celebrities

Another thing to be aware of is that, by the very nature of this type of communicating, some of the personalities in your company may bubble up to the top of the pile and become individual celebrities due to their activities using social media tools and the perception of their influence by the community. These ‘celebrities‘ can be used to your benefit. They can become your unofficial spokespeople for the company. This can lead to a positive impression for your brand as interest in the personality increases awareness of new features and news.

Customers can then connect their perception of your brand to a real human being and not a logo.

Think about brands that with personalities at the helm: Victor Kiam and Remington, Steve Jobs and Apple, James Dyson and Dyson vacuum cleaners, Donatella Versace and the Versace fashion house. These leaders are all great personalities; they are spokespeople and living embodiments of the brand. Glossy magazines, offering a glimpse into celebrities’ lives, bring awareness of the celebrity, and, by extension, their product, book or film, by this human connection.

The same is true for celebrities who use social media. Sarah Brown, the wife of the former UK prime minister, and Barack Obama use Twitter as a way as connecting to their audience. Ashton Kutcher has almost 6 million Twitter followers, Oprah Winfrey has over 4 million and Stephen Fry almost 2 million. Each of these personalities has brought this connection off the pages of the glossy magazines and into the online world of interactivity.

The empathy that your social media spokespeople develop with your customers brings a much closer connection to the customer. The bond created with the brand evangelist becomes close and personal, and, by extension, the bond to the brand which can lead to loyalty and advocacy in future.

If you are trying to increase your social media advocates, perhaps consider the following activities to help drive engagement:


  • Build demand. Information fuels itself. Drive the thirst for knowledge amongst your audience and keep them engaged with information that they would find difficult to find externally.

  • Drive awareness. Make sure that the consumers are kept up to date about your products. In their day job, they may not have time to discover everything about your product set. Tell them about it, and reinforce the message regularly. Ask the audience questions, interact and inform.

  • Show the new. In technology, consumers want to see your product vision and direction. When a product is ready to talk about, encourage your teams to talk about it, show video clips, images and demos. Get the word out and spread the buzz.

  • Show value. If used correctly, social media can demonstrate the value to customers after they have purchased your product. Whether this is ongoing support, customer care, interaction, help and dialogue, the connection is there and should be encouraged to develop.

To preserve your brand and maintain its visibility in the markets, it is important to maintain a good ongoing connection with your customers. There are several ways to do this, but Dell certainly shows leadership with several innovative ideas. In addition to their financially successful Twitter aliases, Dell has other community innovations.

Dell have created a micro-site called IdeaStorm which encourages comments, good and bad, about Dell’s products.

This enables users to be in direct touch with Dell about the issues that are important, such as customer service, pre and post sales processes and product quality. The rationale behind this idea is that it is better to allow customers to complain and rant about problems directly to Dell, than have detractors complain on other sites where the comments are harder to find and subsequently fix. Sites like these don’t stop customers complaining on other sites, but do allow the complaints to be heard by Dell itself; and by listening to their customers, they also gather ideas for future products.