As a product guy at a company focused on marketers, I frequently find myself speaking with customers about what keeps them up at night. More than anything, they tell us that they are challenged by:
- responding to never-ending demands to drive more traffic to their sites;
- mastering an increasingly search-driven world; and
- creating a destination that keeps consumers engaged.
From my vantage point, I also get to see what smart organizations are doing to overcome these challenges. Based on what I've gleaned from these successes, this is the advice that I pass on:
Build your audience by providing valuable content.
Publish useful, informative content that is associated with your brand and you will absolutely increase traffic. You will also give members of your natural audience a new opportunity to engage with your site. And by the way, if you are sensitive to what your audience is searching for on the Web, and you increase the volume of content on your site that is search-friendly, organic search will drive new unique visitors to you.
Engage your audience in a social experience.
Engaging users via social media features helps you hang onto new site visitors, and gives them a reason to make your destination part of their daily routine. Today's brands can increase customer engagement and transform core digital assets into social experiences in three ways:
- Create "sticky" applications that your visitors can't get anywhere else. Stickiness is the key to getting them to come back to your site on a regular basis.
- Make your entire site social by deploying user profiles, blogs, groups, and other interactive features that encourage your visitors to engage in the passion inherent in your brand and share that passion with each other.
- Leverage the broader social Web. Integrate your site with Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and other destinations, so that your most loyal audience members can talk about their great social experience with their real friends. Make it easy for them to invite their real friends back to your destination. Move the brand-relevant conversations that are taking place on your site out to the social Web. Your customers are, after all, your best marketers.
Scion, a car company wholly owned by Toyota, is a great example of a brand that is building a loyal online audience by delivering an experience that users can't get anywhere else. Scion owners — a technologically savvy, 20-something market — are passionate about their cars. Scion is capturing and channeling that passion online by becoming fluent in the online language of its audience and by transforming its enthusiasts into experts.
ScionOwners.com has cleverly restricted admission to the site to people with Scion VIN's, which reinforces the sense of exclusivity already shared by the community. Inside this populous, private space Scion has created a personalized online destination where car owners can share ideas, get tips on proper maintenance and customization opportunities, and otherwise celebrate the brand and communicate with other like-minded car owners. The community makes it easy for owners to coordinate events, make comments, hold discussions, and start conversations with other owners nationwide. In turn, Scion's product development and marketing teams get a front-row seat to a 24/7 Scion show that stars their most engaged — and outspoken — customers.
Here are the lessons Scion exemplifies, even if your company doesn't sell cars:
- take a broad perspective on the potential power of your online destinations;
- build and maintain a content-rich site;
- work with your best customers to create a vibrant online community that taps into the passion inherent in your brand and your core audience; and
- allow that passion to spread to the larger social Web.
Do these things and you will not have any problems getting to sleep at night.
About the Author
Gabe Dennison (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the product marketing manager at Pluck Enterprise, a Demand Media company. As product marketing manager for Pluck, Dennison oversees product marketing and has worked to move Pluck into multiple new markets within the social media industry. Since joining Pluck in 2007, he has helped the company expand its network of customer sites from approximately 100 media company sites to over 400 leading media, retail, and brand sites.
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