Are we killing our customers with engagement?

Customers want to know how your brand can help and inspire them—not take your latest contest.

Facebook use is declining.

Studies show that users are un-liking business pages.

Consumers are getting savvy and more jaded about businesses’ use of social media, and they’re responding negatively. The thing is, it’s our fault.

Social media consultants and bloggers have long urged companies to create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and start conversations with their customers. Lots of companies have done just that. The problem is, most customers don’t want a conversation with a company or its representatives.

Sure, there are exceptions. There are customers who are genuinely passionate about a restaurant, hotel, clothing line, or shoe company. Those customers are the minority, though.

It may be worth engaging with that minority, but companies aren’t focusing on deeply engaging with the few people who want to engage with them. Most companies either aren’t doing social media, or they are in a race to acquire as many fans and followers as possible, and then get likes and comments from as many as possible.

As I noted in a recent post, the conversation approach isn’t customer-centric. Businesses and marketers want to engage in conversation with the customer. Just as marketers want blog and newsletter subscribers, and customer email addresses, they want Facebook fans. They want to regularly contact and message leads to customers—even if they do it in a less promotional, more social manner.

Customers aren’t begging for engagement

Customers want to engage with their friends. They want to engage with content that amuses, teaches or inspires them. They may want to engage with their friends about said content.

I’m not saying that companies shouldn’t listen to customers and shouldn’t respond to them. Good companies have been listening to their customers for years in various ways. Good companies will continue to monitor, respond, answer questions, address concerns and elicit suggestions, all through social media and other means.

It’s the inane and sometimes manipulative attempts to converse and engage people that I’m decrying. With all the competition for our attention, and the flood of content, news and status updates, I think consumers increasingly resent attempts to draw their attention with questions, content, contests and conversations that aren’t valuable, relevant, fun or interesting.

It’s just more noise.

A customer-centric approach

We’ve created a monster by telling every company that it needs a Facebook page and Twitter account, and that it needs to converse and engage. I hope we can slay that monster by taking a truly customer-centric approach. I hope we begin to tell companies that they need to identify the specific consumers of value to them as a company, and then find a way to be of service to them.

So many businesses are out on the social Web expending resources and money, trying to get a conversation started on their page and blog. What if they spent the same resources and money trying to find valuable ways to serve consumers through their Facebook pages and blogs? Or how to help consumers meet their online goals and enrich their relationships with one another?

If a company did that for me, I’d be a loyal fan and visit their Facebook page more often.

Do you agree?

Neicole Crepeau is a partner in Coherent Interactive. She blogs at Coherent Social Media, and contributes to {grow}, where this article originally ran. Follow her on Twitter.

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