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Three Ways to Increase Engagement On Your Website

By: Guest | October 24, 2011 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Lief Larson.

Why do people (ethical PR and marketing professionals in particular) generally hate “spin” so much?

Because spin is not honest and people don’t want to feel they are being deceived.

PR professionals (the good ones) disdain it because the spin-like practices of the few reflect badly on the entire profession. And marketing practitioners (again, the good ones) avoid it because they understand that building trust is essential to long-term business success.

In the offline world, we can often assess people and decide if we want to trust them by asking them questions. We can learn a bit about their backgrounds, and watch their eyes and body language.

In the online world, this is more difficult. 

How can you build trust through your corporate website? How can you show your visitors the people standing behind your claims about your product or service (which are often similar to what your competitors say) are real, smart, and helpful people? How can you encourage interaction so site visitors can verify this for themselves?

Recognizing the need to answer questions in real time and encourage interaction, many organizations have added online chat options to their websites.

The problem is, these tools often don’t build trust. They can even do the opposite. That’s inherent in the nature of most online chat tools.

  • You may or may not have the option to initiate a chat. Often, a window just pops up, interrupting your browsing, asking you to chat.
  • These chat tools use a “track and ambush” approach. By logging your IP address, it watches your behavior on the site, then pops up once it “knows” what you are looking for.
  • You know nothing about the person on the other end of the chat, except perhaps a first name (maybe real, maybe not). You don’t know who they are, where they are, or anything about their background or knowledge.

Like spin, this approach to online interaction doesn’t build trust.

There is a better approach. Combine existing technology (social media profiles, live video chat, and search) with a different philosophical approach (putting the site visitor in control) and you will build trust which, over time, builds business.

Putting your best people forward (through rich social profiles) and letting your visitors decide if they want to interact – when, with whom, and how – leads to true customer engagement.

Specific keys to increasing customer engagement on your website are:

  1. Make your key people “findable” on your website and elsewhere on the web. Help your prospective customers find a real person in your organization to connect with—not just an 800 number and generic “contact us” form.
  2. Get your key people active in social media, which tells prospects something about them and fosters engagement.
  3. Give prospects options for how they want to engage (voice, chat, video, etc.). If you’re buying a house, you may not want to be friends with your realtor on Facebook—but a realtime video tour of a house you’re interested in would be cool.

So rethink chat. Just as ethical PR activities build trust in the market over time, so an inviting (not ambushing) approach to online visitor engagement builds trust, one prospective customer at a time. Both lead to shorter sales cycles and long term business success.

Lief Larson is a career entrepreneur, technologist, and futurist, as well as founder and president of Workface, a customer engagement platform provider. He was named #8 on Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Top 10 American Entrepreneurs Under 30″ and writes frequently for industry publications and on the Workface blog.

27 comments
keepupweb
keepupweb

Nothing makes me leave a website faster than having someone start chatting with me. Your readers know when you have live chat on your site and if we want to chat, we'll initiate it. I do like your suggestion to use live video chat. That would make it so personal. Thanks for the suggestion.

HealthJusticeCT
HealthJusticeCT

Thanks, Liz! Found this post helpful. RT @lizscherer: Three Ways to Increase Engagement On Your Website twrt.me/o46e4b RT: @ginidietrich

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

To me generic contact form and nameless/faceless chat are online expressions of people/companies not really looking to engage. I suppose it probably works in some cases, but misses the whole point of social. It's like being in a room where one person keeps shouting non-sequiturs at the top of the their lungs.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

You know what's funny?! This happened to me on the QuickBooks site earlier and it gave me the heebies jeebies...especially after having read this.

terence.stephens
terence.stephens

My concern with some of these tactics is that you're building your employees' networks instead of building your customer base. I'd be fine with both, but obviously the latter is the priority.

Thoughts on making sure you accomplish the correct goal and don't lose all you clients when you lose an employee?

Maranda
Maranda

As trolly as this might sound - those pop up chats are stupid. I will decide if I need some assistance when I've spent too long on a page. It upsets my intelligence when it pops up and asks me if I 'need some assistance' - No, I don't. I just had a customer on the phone, dinner on the stove, or something else to do. I'm so glad I'm not the only person who dislikes this practice.

Workface
Workface

You're welcome! And spot-on observation. Site visitors don't necessarily object to chat functionality, but they want to be in control of if and when they engage in a chat, as well as deciding who they'd prefer to chat or video chat with.

Workface
Workface

I know Joe, odd, isn't it? Companies spend buckets of money on SEO, AdWords and other tactics to draw you to their websites,then...don't want to talk to you. Or at the very least, they don't make it easy.

Workface
Workface

Strategies vary by industry. In some cases (e.g. insurance) the relationship ends up being more with the company than the agent. In others (e.g. financial services), there are often no-compete clauses that prevent brokers from taking clients with them. The best tactic, overall, is: be good to your employees so you don't lose them. :-) @terence.stephens

Workface
Workface

Exactly Miranda! Put the site visitor in control: let him or her decide IF they want to chat, WHEN they want to chat and WITH WHOM they want to chat. It's far less annoying than a pop-up and far more likely to lead to a meaningful exchange that helps both the site visitor and the company. @Maranda

Workface
Workface

Yes, and you can check out the person before deciding to connect. Isn't it nice to be in control? :-)

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