Over the last few years, the ‘holy grail’ of social media Return on Investment (ROI) has been engagement.

Engagement is not about how many followers you have on your social media pages, but about how engaged they are with your brand. This is shown through likes, comments, and shares on your posts.

In reality, brands and digital marketers have been struggling for a long time to work out what the most meaningful metrics are for social media.

Are social channels effective enough?

Is raising brand awareness and humanising your brand through social channels ultimately helping you to achieve your business goals? Are the people who engage with brands on social media truly customers, or prospective customers?

After years of floundering around and hoping for the best, a few things have happened:

  • Facebook has made it almost impossible for brands to generate high levels of engagement on social content without paying for reach.

  • A new wave of affordable digital marketing tools and platforms have been launched, designed to convert and track engaged users from content (on social or your website) through to eventual conversions.

These tools will ultimately empower businesses, and lead to new ways of interacting with your customers online beyond social media platforms.

How will this change the way businesses interact online?

Brands can take back control of their customers and prospects by bringing them back into their own websites, capturing more detailed information about their preferences and requirements than ever before, and pro-actively engaging with customers while they are browsing on a website.

Live chat tools like Lucky Orange and intercom.io make it possible to engage inside your website with customers and prospects just as we have become accustomed to doing on our social media channels.

With the arrival of chat bots and Facebook Messenger itself, these tools are smarter and more useful than ever before.

Think of it as adding the interactivity of Facebook to your website: never mind getting clients to fill in a static enquiry form that’s sent via email - which gives them no indication of when a response might arrive. Use today’s tools so customers can ask questions as they browse, get an answer and make a purchase immediately, or carry on with their research.

Your customer service staff can be available online to respond immediately to customer questions, help guide people through your website and your product or service offerings, and dramatically increase the chance of making a sale. There is no reason you can’t have remote customer service or sales staff based in different time zones so you can easily cover your retail store 24/7!

These new generation tools go far beyond old school live chat to effectively put sales staff into the online environment with shoppers in real time.

Many customers have already come to expect this level of online service from every ecommerce site they visit, and the ones that don’t provide it will find they are losing sales to their competitors who do.

Some are already doing it very well, but now a new more sophisticated form of the technology is accessible to smaller businesses.

The challenge (which is easily overcome) will be to make those customer approaches as appropriately nuanced as a well trained shop assistant, recognising that frequently site visitors will be in “just looking mode”, not always ready to buy straight away.

And one of the most frequent questions you are likely to be asked is “if I order this now, when will it arrive, or can I get it by xxx date?”

The key is ensuring that your online, real time customer service is not creepy and invasive, but is offered as a genuine level of service to help customers navigate to the products they are looking for, while also removing any other apparent barriers to completing their purchase.

Talk to us if you want to explore how you can increase enagegement with your customers online.