Published on January 24th, 2014 | by Yael Grauer1
Enhance Customer Engagement with Online Hangouts
Advertising, keyword search tools and social media marketing are some of the ways you can attract new readers and prospects to your blog or website, but sometimes it’s best to find them where they hang out. Online hangouts—tools that let groups of people chat via text, audio and video—are making their way from the personal toolkit, to the marketing one. Take a look at some of the options below to determine which of the following online hangouts might benefit your specific product or service.
A tweet chat is a pre-arranged discussion that takes place on Twitter at a specific time. Some businesses host tweet chats once a week, at the same time each week (usually an hour), asking participants to answer a series of questions with a specific hashtag. Others have one-off tweet chats centered around specific topics.
Tweet chats can create lively conversation, connect your followers with one another and help you develop a deeper understanding of your prospects and their viewpoints. You can also post links to relevant content from your website or blog.
“There’s still a lot of potential for some of the segments that have yet to really leverage online,” says Matt Hodkinson, CEO and founder of Influence Agents, which helps businesses in the professional services industry generate with social media and inbound marketing. Hodkinson has over 15 years of experience in digital marketing and the IT sector.
If you’re working in an industry that doesn’t have much of a social media presence (such as accounting or even a law practice), using tweet chats is a good way to build community and get out a message about your brand, says Hodkinson. Tweet chats can also bring together people from your industry who want to chat, creating networking opportunities.
Just be aware that tweet chats have their downside as well. If you don’t have enough participants, it can make for a very quiet event, but the opposite situation can be problematic, too. “You can become too prolific in too short an amount of time,” Hodkinson warns. “A lot of people don’t like that filling up their streams, and it also leaves you open to spammers, people who effectively take newsjacking a bit too far and try to piggyback off the popularity of a trending conversation.” Spammers have a bit more difficulty infiltrating gatherings where there’s a visual element and an attendance requirement.
Reddit is a social news site where anonymous users submit content and vote it up or down. While gaining traction on the main page is difficult, there are very active “subreddits” in many industries, where smaller groups of users gather to discuss an area of interest.
A popular subreddit is called “IAmA,” which stands for “I Am A,” and is where users post “AMAs” (short for “Ask Me Anything,” allowing users to ask questions about any given topic. Many celebrities, public figures and entrepreneurs, such as Gary Vaynerchuk have participated, as AMAs are a great way to leverage popularity and answer questions from a wide variety of interested people all in one place. But AMAs can also be a way to give users insight into a specific industry that has received national exposure, answering questions and increasing their understanding on a topic.
“When it comes to Reddit as an online hangout, I think it really comes down to whatever’s trending at a time,” says Hodkinson, who sees the popular forum as an opportunity to bring people together on a large scale. “People who go to Reddit are really looking for trends, so they’re quite nomadic in the topics they discuss,” he adds.
Redditors, as contributor-editors are known, are opinionated and vocal, and because the platform is anonymous, the conversations can get a bit heated. “It lends itself to the most agile businesses. If you’re in software development, if you’re in apps, if you’re in something quite cutting-edge and forward-thinking then, I think, the Reddit community is going to be of most benefit to you because they tend to be up to speed on what’s going on,” Hodkinson says.
Streaming video options
With Google’s Hangouts on Air, you can schedule broadcasts which upload to Google+, YouTube and your own website. This option allows for live, interactive conversation and even lets participants see one anther, which can boost engagement dramatically.
“I talk to clients in all kinds of sectors, and there’s massive opportunity there to really push yourself as the credible thought leader, or at least someone that’s a trusted advisor,” says Hodkinson. Use Google Hangouts on Air (or other video streaming options, such as Ustream or Livestream) to field questions, interview experts in your industry, field questions from your readers, or simply build credibility by positioning yourself as an expert on your topic.
Getting the word out
Make sure to use various social media channels and your own email list to bring people together to an online hangout, even if you’re hoping to find new prospects there as well. Hodkinson points out that one of his clients, a B2B marketer in software, had a lot of traction by posting a link to a Google Hangout on Air on LinkedIn. Tweet chats, Reddit AMAs and live video streams can be promoted on whichever social media channels you think are appropriate for the audience.
This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.
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