Why should I follow or like you?

Even now, some organisations are still making their first tentative steps into online engagement with their customers using social media and through social networks. They are easy to spot – look for the pleading calls to action, asking you to follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook or subscribe to their YouTube channel. But what exactly is in it for me? Why exactly should I follow or like you?

It pays in the long run to think strategically about how you think your organisation, service or product will go about getting, maintaining and ultimately amplifying the attention of the individuals who choose to engage with you. Even brands or services that command widespread recognition in their own right still need to work creatively on maintaining the attention of their followers (for example, look at these case studies from Archrival | Dachis Group and Stuzo | Dachis Group).

While the cost of entry and experimentation with social media is considered to be low, nothing is ever completely free – failed attempts at customer engagement online take their toil in wasted effort and political goodwill from internal sponsors. In some cases you might have even gone as far as engaging a contractor or digital agency to implement your social media channel. But all this will be wasted if you don’t have the attention of the right people. I use the word ‘attention’ in a tactical sense. People can’t follow or like you if they don’t know you exist. But they won’t continue to follow you if you don’t maintain that attention.

Getting, maintaining and amplifying attention in a business-to-business context is different again, because organisations don’t follow other organisations; the people in those organisations have to make this choice on behalf of their organisation.

You may not even realise that you have lost someone’s attention – if you are lucky, they will post negative feedback or even stop following you. But they might also just filter you out – they’ve stopped reading the news or following the links you post. They are effectively disengaged, but still apparently following you.

However, attention also comes in many forms. For some the need is pure utility, others a sense of membership or community, it could be the chance of an offer or a deal, or even the chance to participate in something bigger than themselves. Sometimes it might just be for fun. For some brands, attention means attracting hundreds of thousands of followers; for other organisation it may be enough to attract the attention of the media or other key stakeholders. For example, we expect a global brand to gain widespread attention, but a small boutique brand only needs to nurture the attention of a loyal group of discerning customers. But in all cases understanding the reason for attention is critical, as is making sure your call for attention is in the right place.

To quote Clay Shirky, you need to offer:

a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users.

Of course, this may still not be enough to get what everyone desires: viral attention. Its quite likely you will need to integrate with other promotional, advertising and marketing channels. At the other end of the customer participation chain, also don’t forget to integrate other aspects of the customer experience, such as customer service and sales. Remember, this isn’t just your conversation – don’t be surprised if people talk back or ask unexpected questions. Drop the ball in any aspect of your online engagement and you risk losing the attention credibility you’ve worked so hard to earn and maybe a loyal customer or supporter.

There are many different reasons why someone will follow or your like you organisation. Make sure you understand exactly:

  • Why you deserve their attention.
  • How you will maintain it.
  • What needs to be done to integrate the customer experience, including advertising, sales and customer service.