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Keep in touch with customers online

Recent data from Sprout Social found that 64 percent of consumers want brands to connect with them, and 70 percent feel more connected to brands with CEOs who are active online.

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A small business CEO asked me last week to expand on my suggestion to keep engaged with customers online. That is a great topic for us to explore.

In our digital world, it’s critical that you connect with customers online as often as possible. And with the pandemic limiting in-person events, connecting online is critical to keeping your business growing. If you’re already posting on social media and sending out an email or two each month, you’re on the right track. However, that’s not enough to keep customers interested and connected to your brand when they’re bombarded with a sea of pitches every time they log into their email or social media.

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Still, your customers want you to connect with them. In fact, recent data from Sprout Social found that 64 percent of consumers want brands to connect with them, and 70 percent feel more connected to brands with CEOs who are active online.
Let's look for some examples of ways to do this. In this column and the next, I will share several ideas from SCORE folks and our content partners to keep conversations with your customers going during and after the pandemic and keep the sales coming in.

1. Live stream events or updates. The future of online customer communication is live. In April 2020, Instagram saw a 70 percent increase in live streaming, as reported by Business Insider. If you’re hesitant to dive into live streaming, wary of the time, money, and other resources required, you’re in luck.

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You don’t need professional lighting and expensive camera equipment to reach out to customers. Just grab your phone or laptop, jump onto Facebook or Instagram Live, and start streaming!

Use a streaming platform to share announcements or updates related to your business. Your customers will feel like they are talking with an old friend. Be open and vulnerable about challenges to make it even easier for customers to connect emotionally.

Engage with your customers and followers by asking questions and responding in real time. This keeps them interested in the video while also giving you a chance to communicate directly with customers.

2. Host virtual meetups. During COVID-19, friends connected via Zoom, Skype or other video chat apps, and groups of people have come together virtually to offer emotional support. You can be a community leader by bringing people together with virtual meetups.

Host get-togethers with customers to share stories, offer advice, and connect on a deeper level. If you’re not sure what to gather about or what to do during the gathering, consider these simple ideas:

  • Have an open discussion based on a specific topic.
  • Invite a guest to speak and share.
  • Have your owner or CEO address the group or do a Q&A.

Don’t forget to promote the gathering on social media so you can use this time to address those who already know you and those who may not yet.

Send out VIP invites to your best or oldest customers and make sure they know they’re getting a VIP invite. This allows you to make them feel special, which can encourage them to remain loyal for the long term.

3. Offer free lessons. Many people are using the pandemic to learn new skills or keep up with hobbies. As a business, you can stay top of mind with customers by offering lessons to guide them through their favorite activities.

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For example, chef, author, and e-commerce seller, Emilie Raffa, offered a tutorial on how to make a sourdough starter. Follow her lead by posting your tutorial on your website and then teasing it on social media to drive traffic to your site.

If customers love this, consider making it a regular feature of your social media content. You can even poll customers to find out what recipes or foods they want to learn about to entice them to tune in.

Send the video to your email list after publishing it. This is not only a smart way to repurpose your video content, but it also allows you to add value to your customers lives while encouraging them to connect with you on social media.

4. Share videos. You don’t have to go live to leverage the power of video. Share employee Q&A videos, talks from your CEO, or just behind-the-scenes videos of how your company does what it does. Even short videos can engage audiences and remind them that you still exist — and will be waiting once this is all over. Not to mention, they give your customers something to connect with— we’re all going through this pandemic together, so remind them!

If applicable, turn your videos into an Instagram video (IGTV) series. With each video being related to the next, or telling a chronological story, customers and followers are more likely to tune in when they see you’ve released a new one. Plus, they all live on your Instagram profile, so they can be re-watched at any time. They can also be shared to your other profiles and marketing mediums.

Invite customers into your home. This intimate video reminds them that you’re human, too, and allows you to start developing a deeper connection with your audience.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the North West Region.

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