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Individual attention please

February 10, 2011

Individual attention matters. As the parent of an infant I see this in action every day. There’s no such thing as group play for a two-month old. His attention span is short and his needs are specific and direct. He profits most from one-on-one time with mom and dad, rather than tag team efforts to amuse him. And while as he grows older he’ll learn the joy of groups and playdates there is something in human nature that appreciates individual attention at all stages.

In an era of social marketing that reaches out en masse rather than to the individual we should to pay more attention to the recipients of our messaging, and their need for individual attention. Numbers count, and there is absolutely merit in reaching out to a large audience. But if we’re really looking to build robust communities we need to keep the person behind the campaign in mind.

I can’t claim to know how you can better get to know your customers without knowing your specific organization or business details. But I can give you a few general tips I implement to make sure that when you’re engaging with people, you don’t forget that they’re actual people:

1. Make your content specific. All too many brands and organizations try to be all things to all people. Very few are. Embrace what you know and find your niche. Then make your content appeal to the people who care. No one appreciates a bait and switch scheme where you’re claiming to be, sell, or know something you can’t or don’t.

2. Make sure your brand finds its Facebook friends. Brands or companies shouldn’t have Facebook profiles, they should have pages, but it’s important that your page get to know other pages with a similar or complimentary mission or purpose. Don’t hesitate to tag and share the love. Not all of your posts should be completely self-serving. Giving your social media presence a personal dimension is sometimes a good thing.

3. Get to know your audience. Like, really get to know them. We accomplish way too much via the worldwide web alone. If you have a chance to get to know your customers, do so. Whether it’s a conference, a focus group, or even a personal email, the more you know your community the better off you will all be. You’ll know how to improve your content and they’ll feel more connected to your brand. Dominos is showing an example of this now in its current commercial ad campaign. It takes customers criticizing the product in focus group fashion and gives them a firsthand experience with the product.

4. Show appreciation. There is something very personal about a well-phrased thank-you. Corporate social media can appear all too self-serving, especially if you don’t take the time to thank those supporting you. I’m absolutely against individual tweets to thank every follower on Twitter, or the need to personally reply to every Facebook comment, but taking the time to show appreciation – even (and especially) when it isn’t absolutely necessary is a key step to giving your community members the one-on-one attention they deserve. So if someone writes something spectacular about you somewhere online, take the time to thank them – preferably via a personal or direct message.

These are general tips for brands engaging in the communications domain but they also apply to my life. I am increasingly too reliant on technology rather than human interaction. I can’t remember the last time I picked up the phone to ask a question versus defaulting to email or texting when they were an option . In general, technology is option #1; human to human is #2. Efficiency is sometimes the reason (and perhaps you’d rather not hear my baby crying in the background…), but it’s also sometimes laziness and selfishness. Relationships, especially good ones, take time and effort to build. And perhaps they can be sustained through today’s digital realm but they’re not always strengthened.

Same goes with corporate communications. If you can’t remember the last time your digital campaign felt, or resulted in personal interaction or feedback, than it’s probably time to reevaluate. Besides, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we could all use a little more love, right?

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