4 Ways to Use Social Media Cues to Engage People

As much as we (rightly) praise Google for having transformed our lives for the better, sometimes we all want answers that go beyond the right search query.  Sometimes we want to reach out to someONE rather than someTHING.

But engaging in a conversation requires trust.  And just as no newsletter sign-up form or invitation should be without trust-building assurances and privacy statements, no social media invitation or landing page should be without its own persuasive and trust-building cues.

While looking at Adam Cohen’s recent rundown of social media landing pages (think landing pages that convey social media options for customers), I was struck by some observations.  Consider these four cues to incorporate into your social media landing page and campaign designs:

#1:  Provide Visual Indications of Connection and Instantaneity

steal of the dayTake a look at this eBags “Steal of the Day” offer, as taken by Rishi Rawat.

Notice that eBags not only points out how many bags are left, but how many shoppers are also being offered this deal right NOW as you are looking at the purse yourself. Is this really social media?

No, but it does show how instantaneity brings the human element into an otherwise “sterile” e-commerce experience.

Similarly below, on the Windows social media landing page, the ability to see the current forum comments and questions is powerfully persuasive.  The combination of transparency and perceived instantaneity create the desire to dive into the “conversational stream” that we see passing before us.

windows 7

Microsoft gets it right!  The instantaneous Twitter feed makes us feel connected and lends credibility to the site and comments.  Putting the Twitter pics and names next to comments provides more credibility cues and a humanizing touch.

Those are both examples of employing this first principle to good effect. Now here’s an example where these cues are not adequately leveraged…

best buy

Best Buy’s page lacks the feeling of connection that Microsoft’s page has.  There are no social media cues to reassure the visitor.

Notice that the Twelpforce box is below the fold on the social media landing page and there are no cues of:

  • Instantaneity or connection. We don’t see the stream of tweeted questions, nor do we see a McDonald’s-like counter of number of customers served/helped.
  • “People” behind the tweeted answers.
  • A high signal-to-noise ratio—no displayed answers to show that the responses are better than trusting to Google, FAQ pages, or scrolling through the forums.

#2:  Show Signs of the Real Person Behind the Technology

If you look back to the Microsoft social media landing page, you’ll see that pictures are attached to all of the displayed tweets.  That cues us to emotionally attach the “real people” warmth to the streaming tweets and comments.  Remember, social media is about connecting with people.  So include as many “real people” cues as possible.  Common ways to do this include:

  • Attaching pictures to blog comments.  Almost nothing says “real person” more than an actual headshot.  Seeing a face humanizes the person behind the comment.
  • Pictures attached to testimonials.  In the same way that handwriting personalizes a note, a picture of the customer can personalize the testimonial.
  • Voice attached to testimonials.  There’s so much information attached to inflection, emphasis, tonal quality, and so on.  We just feel we can spot sincerity when we hear it—and that works to your advantage when you’ve got sincere customers willing to record a testimonial.
  • Video testimonials. This is the best of both worlds: you get voice and pictures!
  • Providing live chat with someone specific. Try changing the picture within the live chat icon according to which operator is “at bat.”  Everyone likes to know whom they’re talking with.  When you provide an actual picture, you give visitors more confidence to initiate a conversation.
  • Providing a group shot of your customer service or social media team.  Sometimes providing a picture of the individual service tech isn’t feasible, but providing a group shot is.  Best Buy could certainly do this and it would sync nicely with their current “Ask a Blue Shirt” TV commercials.
  • Making sure your corporate social media initiatives have a personality behind them.  Bureaucracies don’t have authentic personalities. If projecting your authentic self is crucial to social media success, then a corporate-looking social media landing page is probably doomed from the start.

#3:  Show You Deliver Value

While social media holds out the promise of human contact and intelligent response, it also presents the risk of the knucklehead factor.  No-one wants to open themselves up to spam, troll-like responses, and a customer service rep whose only knowledge of the problem stems from the flow chart in front of him.

To engage more visitors with your social media efforts, you will need to include cues that indicate you provide value—many more intelligent insights, answers, and offers than selfish promotions and corporate PR-speak.

If Best Buy displayed the responses to tweeted questions, this would allow them to demonstrate the quality of their answers and a high signal-to-noise ratio.  Similarly, allowing transparency on Twitter streams, Facebook updates, and so on can allow the wary to see for themselves what kind of signal you’re sending.  This obviously overlaps a bit with the connectivity and instantaneity cues discussed earlier.

Showing your social media team’s pictures indicates that you hold them in high regard, which equates to a higher likelihood of intelligent answers, tweets, blog posts, and so forth.

#4: Use a Strong Call to Action

Social media doesn’t eliminate the need for traditional usability and conversion best practices.  Visually prominent and clear calls to action will continue to outperform subtle text-based links.  Compare the “See this Steal” and “Join the Conversation” buttons in the first two examples with Best Buy’s “Visit ____” text-based links.  Which is more inviting to you?

As with almost everything on the Internet, it always pays to test—both through user testing and A/B or multivariate testing.  As my good friend and mentor Bryan Eisenberg would say, “Always Be Testing.”

What do you think about social media cues? Are they valuable? Please add your comment below.

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About the Author, Jeff Sexton

Jeff Sexton is a copywriting and website optimization specialist who combines content and messaging improvement with aggressive analytics and testing as part of a "holistic" approach to online marketing optimization. Other posts by »




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  • http://marismith.com/ Mari Smith

    Excellent post, Jeff – what great points to spotlight!! I’m a big fan of custom landing pages on Facebook Fan Pages with features like short video welcome greeting, opt in box, call to join the fan page and “fan only” elements!

  • http://www.claycampbell.biz/ Clay Campbell

    Great post and you are so right on. Jeff says in this post : “So include as many “real people” cues as possible.” I am a relational type person and I don’t like all the technology much. But a head shot, or audio, or video, helps me a lot to feel better about dealing with buying online.

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    it’s true – Mari’s landing page in Facebook is an ideal example.

  • http://www.togetherinthegap.com/blog Andrew Schank

    I appreciate the honest insight. Time and time again, I learn something here to help our ministry website and blog! We too are on Facebook as a fan page… due in large part to this site! Thanks for the help! Keep it coming!

  • http://twitter.com/urevrythngsvcs Deb Lamb

    As always, a very good post and very informative! Good job Jeff!

    You have pointed out some very interesting facts that I’m going to make sure I’m using in all my social media efforts. The first thing is, updating my Facebook fan page. Really is not where I want it to be, but I’ll do some work on it for sure now.

    Thanks so much for the valuable information, I always learn something from this site too.

    Merry Christmas to all!

    Deb :)

  • DonnaGilliland

    Jeff, great article with excellent examples about the human touch. You are on target when you say “social media is about connecting with people.” Thank you for the insightful tips on how to do exactly that.

  • electraford

    Thanks for sharing great information Jeff.

  • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

    Excellent post, and thanks for including my post. You did a much better job at expounding on the reasons why some of the SM landing pages are more effective and better than others, beyond just letting customers know that they have social channels to interact with businesses.

  • JeffSexton

    No question, that’s a great FB landing page.

  • http://www.jeffsextonwrites.com/ Jeff

    Thanks, Deb, Merry Christmas to you, as well.

  • http://www.jeffsextonwrites.com/ Jeff

    Adam,

    Thanks for the comment, it means a lot to me.

    Donna, Andrew, Electraford, and Clay – thanks for your kind comments as well.

    - Jeff

  • http://www.designsuccessu.com Gail Doby

    Great points! I definitely need to do more video and audio to connect on our blog and social networking sites. Thanks for sharing the info.

  • http://www.idealconnectionslv.com Nikki

    Yes – I am definitely about focusing on the people that make up social marketing. Thanks for the post – helps to know I’m on the right track in the services I provide for my clients!

  • http://exponentiallistpotential.com/ Flyss

    I am a subscriber to SME and always enjoy reading your posts. However, I am very much a newbie especially where social media is concerned. I think being in my sixties makes it a little bit harder, not impossible, just harder! It’s interesting to see that Microsoft have got something right. Since they took over Yahoo.fr it has been absolutely impossible to use – emails don’t download or get sent. Just my private moan. I love the boy scout cartoons even though they bring back memories of Tom Lehrer in his heyday. Give me time and I’ll understand what you’re all talking about.

  • http://exponentiallistpotential.com/ Flyss

    Hey, just realised he’s an explorer or gameranger not a boy scout. Should have realised after 40 years spent in Africa – my father used to wear a pith helmet.

  • http://www.jeffsextonwrites.com/ Jeff

    Flyss,

    Yup. Don’t pith helmets just say it all? There are certain items, sounds, and smells that just instantly create (or transport you to) their own world around them, and the pitch helmet is one of them. Interestingly enough, the article was basically saying the same thing regarding trust/credibility cues. There are certain cues that just inspire confidence in visitors that you absolutely will want to have on your SM Landing pages.

    Anywho, thanks for the comment.

    - Jeff

  • Brenda

    I love reading your work – its refreshing to hear about the human element- it gives me hope for my biz

    Brenda

  • http://BeSocialWorldwide.com DawnTrenee

    Social Media is all about the interaction and engaging your friends in a conversation. Great pointers with this article. Thanks for sharing.The variety of networks and situations can become overwhelming to some though.

  • http://www.thegoldandoilguy.com/ Christina

    A very nice read…”show signs of real person behind the technology…” have to agree with that.

  • http://www.tonyaponte.me/ Tony Aponte

    This was a great post. I will have to make my fan page a lot more personable. Thanks for the insight.

  • JeffSexton

    Brenda,Dawn, Christina, and Tony,

    Thanks so much for your comments; I’m thrilled you found the article useful.

    - Jeff

  • http://www.vongehrconsulting.com/ Erroin Martin

    Point number 3 is the hardest part to get across to businesses that want to use social media. They still see it as means to barge into the conversation and promote their products/services. They forget, like all things of value, it takes time to build trust.

    Great post!

  • lieflarson

    Erroin. I’m a little confused about what is wrong with using social as a means to promote products or services??? Are you saying that people have to be passive about marketing? I totally disagree. We have tens of thousands of users at http://BusinessCard2.com, all who are marketing their products and services, and we are very much a social platform. I believe what you meant to say is that in SOME social media contexts, it MAY go against netiquette to create marketing noise.

  • JeffSexton

    Lieflarson,

    Thanks for the comment. Just thought I’d jump in and give my 2 cents on this:

    Of course Social Media can be used to promote products or services, just as regular social interactions and offline social networks can be used to promote the same. But offline, we have a hard-wired sense of putting the relationship first, of establishing reciprocity, etc. Online and in Social Media-land, the same holds true. Companies have to begin the conversation by sharing stuff of value, gaining trust, and then, using the proper netiquette, promoting their products.

    I know YOU know that and ensure that your client’s follow those principles, but there are a lot of companies that don’t, they skip the showing value and building trust part and skip right to the promote your product part. That’s what Erroin was saying. Or at least, that’s what I took away from Erroin’s comment.

    Erroin? Can you confirm or deny my take on this?

    - Jeff







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