Breaking the ice is tough. If you've ever attended a networking event or tried to strike up a conversation with an attractive stranger, you already know this. But while years of practice have hopefully honed your in-person people skills, creating connections online isn't always as easy. If you're a business owner, good communication is especially crucial – because without it, you miss out on valuable feedback and branding opportunities. You don't want to be an Internet wallflower, do you? It's time to learn how to get your customers talking. Here are ten things you can start doing right now:
1. Social Q&A. Customers can use social Q&A tools through services like TurnTo to explain why they bought a product or to ask questions and get feedback before they do. Added to your site, this tool inspires interaction and boosts conversion rates at the same time.
2. Tweeting Back. Your Twitter account shouldn't be a one-way conversation. Engage your followers by responding to anyone who mentions your name, and reach out to specific users by asking them questions like: “Which of our lipsticks would you wear most this summer?”
3. Video Feedback. Plenty of YouTube users with massive followings would be happy to do a video review of your product in return for free samples. Video reviews are a great way to give customers a more detailed look at your product, and thanks to YouTube's bustling community of commenters, they trigger discussions too.
4. Customer Community. Online forums give users a place to meet and interact. Create a forum based around your brand and add other topic sections related to your field or the interests of your target audience. Then invite your customers to get in on the action. Watch the community grow.
5. Facebook Reviews. Facebook may no longer have a review tab for business pages, but there are plenty of apps out there to help you achieve the same end. You can even create a photo album of specific products and encourage customers to share their thoughts and experiences there.
6. Search Directories. If your business has a physical address, your directory listing on Google and similar sites allows customers to submit reviews. When you discover that a search site led a new client to you, encourage that client to return to the site and leave a review. When you do, you won't just get feedback – you'll boost your search engine rankings too.
7. Enable Comments. Horse manure, adult diapers, trampolines – no matter what you sell, your site should always have a blog. Write engaging blog entries, and be sure to conclude some of your posts with questions. Basically, you'll be asking your readers to leave a comment in reponse to your post. It's a great way to get a discussion rolling.
8. Survey Incentives. Follow up with buyers after they check out and ask them to take a quick survey. Keep it short and offer an incentive – like a promo code for 10% off their next purchase. If they raise concerns in your survey, shoot them an email to continue the conversation and learn more.
9. Quizzes and Contests. Procrastinators find online quizzes hard to resist, and who doesn't love free stuff? Use brand-centered quizzes and contests to get feedback, gain social media followers and raise your Klout all at once.
10. Scavenger Hunt. A fun way to get users to explore your site is to send them on a virtual scavenger hunt. Have them search for a specific product, image or phrase on your website, and offer them a prize when they find it. This is one game that really gets people talking.
We aren't all born social butterflies, but even the most socially awkward among us can learn to spread our wings. If your attempts at sparking conversations online seem to fall flat, try something new. Give a few of these ideas a go and see if they don't break the ice with your customers. But be warned – while these methods work wonders for an online business, they don't always translate to real-world situations. In other words, when it comes to your dating life, skip the scavenger hunts.