Rule #3: Be The Gatekeeper

When you’re engaging with anyone online, rule #3 is “Be The Gatekeeper”

You should never be a roadblock. Give customers a clear path. Just being there isn’t enough. Communication has to go both ways. You now have access to incredible feedback you used to have to pay a lot of money for. Lead customers to where they need to be, and listen to what they have to say.

(if you missed it, see Rule #2: Address The Need)

Rule #2: Address The Need

When you’re engaging with anyone online, rule #2 is “Address The Need”.

Everyone needs something.  We listen, we may even understand what we’re being asked — but it that what they really need?  If you’re engaging online, make sure you’re actually addressing the need.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently after a discussion with a support rep.  A customer on Twitter asked if the upload timeout could be increased.  The rep very diligently found the answer to her question — “Unfortunately, no.”  I asked the rep why the customer was asking for this.  A little investigation showed that the customer was trying to upload a file and it was failing.  Was file size the issue?  No, it wasn’t.  So she really didn’t need someone to increase the timeout, she needed someone to figure out why the upload was failing for her.  Armed with that, the rep was able to work on addressing what the customer needed, not just what she asked for.

(if you missed it, see Rule #1: Be Real)

Jumping into the conversation? Great, now can you sustain it?

Conversation among customers has grown online and marketers realize they need to be part of it.  That’s great, but one thing bugs me — why aren’t more people talking about engaging in a way that can be sustained?

I’m not seeing enough conversations on making sure the efforts are sustainable. There’s a post from Sean O’Driscoll called Nuggets form Social Media workshops where he talks about participating in the conversation (section #8). It’s the best advice I’ve heard so far:

Take the time to step back and do the analysis work to understand where the conversations are taking place, how do you categorize them, who are the influencers, what should the internal accountability model be for taking action, ensure you are trained/ready to participate, determine what are you trying to accomplish and how will you sustain the participation.  Nothing like deeply listening before you start talking to help ensure what you are doing is “joining the community.”  (“Nuggets from Social Media workshops as of late” by Sean O’Driscoll)

Sean is absolutely right. Of course you want to engage in the conversation, but you need to do it in a way that gives you the greatest impact and you can sustain.

I don’t know about you, but for me there is nothing worse than a company jumping into the conversation, then suddenly disappearing.  Customers will read into it — and their first reaction won’t be “it’s a shame company x doesn’t have enough people able to participate in this great conversation.”

I’d love to continue this discussion with more specific examples you’ve seen (good or bad).  Please share in the comments.

-k