Creating positive conversation among consumers on a brand's social pages generates tons of user-submitted content and time spent engaging. In a social, public world, conversations can connect consumers to each other and spill over into each of their social graphs, thus spreading the brand's message. But any good conversation needs its starting point. Whether you're seeking conversation on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or elsewhere, you'll learn a strategy below for posting the right questions and prompts to your followers that will generate authentic engagement and discussion.
User-generated content solves several problems facing marketers today. It creates social conversation and sharing, cuts through online noise to reach an over-stimulated, distracted consumer base, and provides tangible proof of brand-customer engagement. Plus, user-led conversations help brands instill in an audience any of several powerful responses, from achievement to having fun to learning to social involvement.
At first glance, text conversations (e.g. Facebook comments, Twitter chats, etc.), appear to be the easiest type of conversation to generate -- it's not terribly hard or scary to leave a comment as a user.
But the trick to generating a steady stream of honest, human discussion is to ask the right question or lead with the right conversation-starter.
So if creating conversation and buzz is important to your brand, remember the following:
1. Allow for self-expression by focusing on consumers' passions and interests.
The idea of personal interests and products helping achieve passions is by no means new, but focusing on self-expression can help you frame all conversations. Frame all you do in terms of the audience's desire to express themselves, not the desire to showcase a product. For example, asking, "Who's your favorite cereal mascot?" results in quick-response answers and not much interaction between consumers. It lacks self-expression.
A better approach might be to create a scenario that elevates the emotional, fun ties consumers might feel to the mascots. For example: "Cereal Mascots A and B are playing basketball against C and D. With 2 seconds left and the game tied, A has the ball. What happens?" Wow! Creativity will ensue.
(Note: if you're not posting the latter question out of fear of lack of response, you've got to go back to the drawing board and find ways to post compelling content and ramp up your followers first before you start asking for great conversation.)
2. Accept the fact that the conversation won't be product-centric.
If they're not talking about your product specifically, who cares? Isn't it just as powerful that they welcome the brand interaction, spend time with you and have a genuinely enjoyable experience because of it? That will affect their future purchase decisions in the same way that seeing an ad or getting a friend recommendation would, with the added benefit of earned media.
Few people want to talk about a product -- they want to talk about themselves and how their lives and interests funnel AROUND a product a brand.
Remember, even if it's not ABOUT your product, the conversation is happening on your brand page, with your brand. Which leads to this:
3. Insert your brand and your presence where appropriate.
No. 2 above does not mean your brand takes a total back seat. To the contrary -- dive in! When you add value, guide the conversation or just offer up a good old "Thanks!" or smile, you start elevating and cementing a great conversation.
For proof, check out any brand Facebook page -- it's way more authentic, human, and social to see the brand contributing to the conversation among other consumers... not just starting it and then sitting back. Jump down from any perch above your followers and get into the mix with them! They'll love you for it.
4. Avoid Yes/No questions at all costs.
(Again, if you're not doing this based on fear of negative opinions or inappropriate posts, you have a set of problems much larger than fostering follower conversation.)
Remember: Conversation Is All About Self-Expression
Social media and consumer engagement is a two-way street. And two-way conversations are about expressing yourself and what you love, and relating your life experience back to a conversation starter. Everyone wants to be heard (especially in today's online world). So if you empower an audience to think and react this way, they'll walk away remembering a positive, memorable, empowering experience they had with your brand.
Show me a banner ad that can achieve THAT.
For more in-depth information, including concrete tips and tricks to apply to your campaigns, you can download Dailybreak's UGC guide.
Follow Jay Acunzo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jay_zo