Four essentials for connecting with your online audience

“We can help you to implement and facilitate leading-edge technologies, developed through years of client engagement and lengthy market experience, to leverage synergies in your business.”

It takes more than a “we” and “you” randomly thrown into a corporate text to convince me an otherwise soulless company cares. Yet more and more often that’s what I see and hear when “engaged in dialogue” as a consumer, reader, peer, colleague and audience.

Social media has allowed companies to come a long way quickly in talking with rather than at their target groups, whether internal or external, and provide a sense of a person behind the words. But the very fact those in the communications and marketing industries continue to talk in terms of engagement, dialogue and interaction rather than conversations, discussion and collaboration speaks volumes.

The first step – or should I say giant leap – has been achieved. Decision makers seem to understand that we, as individuals, want to talk with real people; determine how, when and where that conversation will take place; and even join in the discussion. We want to feel that someone is listening to our opinions and needs, not just giving us some corporate spin.

In this respect communication is no longer a one-way street, but it is still closer to a speed restricted, pot holed country road than a smooth multi-lane freeway.

What can we do?

Change the tone

Too often I see company websites that have been “updated” by sprinkling personal pronouns around with relative abandon. The example that opened this post is typical, if slightly exaggerated for effect, of a half-hearted attempt to make a personal connection.

Consider changing the overall tone of your communication from arrogant lectures that presume to tell the audience what their challenges are and how they can fix them, to “humble” straightforward outlines of what you do and what this achieves.

Show don’t tell

I colleague once told me you can spend five minutes explaining that you are funny, or just tell a good joke. Let your actions and successes speak for you. Or even better, let someone else talk about their success based on your actions.

Let your audience draw its own conclusions. Rather than talk about “being the fastest in the market” or “the most trusted partner” or having “the most cost-effective solution”, be prepared to stand behind your data. Hard facts equals honesty.

Walk the talk

Setting up social media accounts or introducing collaboration and sharing buttons on your web pages is not enough. You have to actively drive conversations. This is not easy.

First, let me reiterate: people want to talk to people. Your conversations therefore have to come from people. Even if you have a team of communicators involved in this process, they have to appear human, and that means having human traits. Humour, opinion, even a touch or disbelief all help build a connection.

Don’t be a taker

Throughout this post I talk about two-way communication, collaboration and discussions. This means you too. It’s not enough to send out your message artfully disguised as a tweet or blog post and assume the conversation will magically begin. You also need to share and join in other people’s ideas and discussions. The guy at a dinner party who only talks about himself normally ends up holding court to no one.

Posted in Better content, Content strategy

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