Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Engagement Lessons from Successful Brands

An interesting customer engagement study has been sitting on my desktop since late summer and it’s long since time to pay attention. The study, by Wetpaint and the Altimeter Group ranks the top 100 brands in terms of customer engagement. You can see the ranking and download the full report here.

Starbucks and Dell are number 1 and 2—no surprise there. They interviewed some other high-ranking sites, SAP at 9 Toyota at 21—about best practices, presumably to get a perspective from different industry sectors. Each of the highly engaging brands has several best practices to suggest and they are worth reading the full report. I picked out one from each that struck me as universally applicable:

Starbucks identifies people throughout the organization to be the liaison with the social media program—to monitor and to take action on customer issues and ideas. At the same time, they maintain tight central control over content and the engagement of individual baristas in their many outlets.

Toyota says you have to be in it for the long haul. No surprise there; social media is an investment of time and energy that will only pay off over time. That’s a disappointment to many who are looking for immediate returns.

SAP makes a practice of engaging in new channels where people already are. That makes it easier to listen and understand; they also encourage employees who are already active on newer channels like Twitter.

Dell points out that you have to be conversational from the start. Again—not a surprise, just really hard to do, especially for newbie brand practitioner.

The Wetpaint/Altimeter group links customer engagement to financial performance and argues that it is a more powerful driver that traditional measures of customer satisfaction. Gallup consulting agrees, and has their own measures of engagement that allow them to group firms by level of engagement. You can read their full report here.

While researching this post, I also ran across a recent article in Forbes that argues for the importance of engaging customers while admitting that engagement is hard to measure. None of this content could be judged as totally unbiased because all the marketing services/consulting firms represented have a stake in creating or measuring engagement.

For me, it’s hard to refute the arguments. You should make your own judgment!

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