Building on one exchange to create another, more valuable one: that was the focus of the Bazaarvoice webinar last week with Ze Frank and Sam Decker, as they discussed their recent white paper, “Participation Chains Connect Customers to Your Brand.”
We see marketers today focusing on single actions when it comes to user-generated content – get a comment, get a review, answer a question. Sam and Ze discussed shifting that focus, recognizing that each time a customer engages with your brand is an opportunity to get them even further engaged, to turn reviewers into top contributors, then into loyal brand advocates and influencers. Moving from “How can I squeeze more dollars out of every customer?” to “How can I get each customer to contribute in ways that keep them engaged and bring in new customers?”
Ze and Sam decided to call this the participation chain – a strategy for cultivating user engagement such that each action builds upon the one before, building value along the way as the customer becomes more deeply engaged with your brand.
How to build your participation chain
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. When a customer makes the effort to review, they are invested in that review. They want to see the end result. We see 90% open rates and 50% click-through rates for email notifications notifying a consumer that their review has been posted to the site. When you’ve already got someone who is engaged and contributing, the next step is to encourage further contribution.
Consider what they want to achieve. Customers contribute for a number of reasons: to express themselves, to share information with their friends, to help the brand. Most often, customers contribute to help other shoppers. Build on this – give them more ways to help others.
Give them an opportunity to accomplish that goal. The key is to build a chain that keeps contributors engaged. Encourage them to publish their reviews to social networks. Invite them to answer other shoppers’ questions. Whatever the reason your customers are participating, create links in your chain that allow them to contribute in ways that meet each of these motivations.
Contribution encourages contribution. All these interactions deepen the contributor’s engagement with the brand. At the same time, this content lives on your site where it influences other shoppers, helping them make purchase decisions and become buyers. Encourage your customers to contribute in ways that help others, encourage others to contribute, and encourage others to buy. Word of mouth is the most impactful form of marketing, so each interaction is a building block, creating an authentic sense of community around your brand and your products.
How does the participation chain apply to your brand? Are you fostering engagement, or letting the conversation die? We’d like to hear your participation chain stories. Tell us about your best examples or plans in the Comments section for a chance to win a $100 AMEX gift card. Please submit your ideas in by Friday, February 12, 2010.