It is a fairly simple process to get a response back from another person during a face to face conversation – Walk up, greet, speak, ask, listen! It is quick, simple and mostly instantaneous.
However, it is a whole different matter when using online communication and social media tools in trying to elicit a response from your reader.
Let me give you a bit of background on this by telling you a recent incident that actually occurred with a career coach with whom I have worked with over the years. Barbara Chernin had recently published her post on career tips and had personally forwarded a link to the post to me. While normally I make it a point to send an acknowledgement to any query I receive, in this particular instance I did not. I read the post and left it at that. During a subsequent chat a few days later, Barbara asked me if I had read her post to which I said I did. She mentioned that it was a mail out that she sent to me directly (because of previous conversation about using material of mine) and all writers who do mail outs or blogs expect at the very least, acknowledgment of receipt or some input.
As a blogger I should have known better. What she said is true. So what exactly happened in my thought process that resulted in no response. I am sure you, the reader, at some point have asked yourself this about a person/friend/employer/colleague to whom you have messaged and not heard back.
Let me share another personal experience of mine, this time from the perspective of what Barbara had just experienced. I had written a post highlighting the work of a local artist in my city. I emailed the artist directly with a link to my published post. I never got any reply or acknowledgement back from this person. This caught me by surprise. I mean wasn’t I giving an upcoming artist essentially free promo for their work? I took the time to show up at artist’s creative space, listen to what the person had to say, then go home and write about it and publish it for the rest of the world to read. I would say the process took about 3 hours of my time. I could at least expect a simple acknowledgement, right?
I contacted some bloggers and researched more on this aspect. It is apparently a common phenomenon. There is information overload from so many sources today that capturing attention of someone is a field of study now. I discovered three levels of response that I refer to as Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.
Level 1 Response – Familiarity and Interest
Getting someone to open and read an email/a post/a comment is Level 1.
The subject or sender has to be familiar to and of interest to the reader to make this happen. For example, in the case of Barbara’s email, since I recognized the email to be from her and it was relevant to me (both criteria met) I opened it and then read it.
Level 2 Response – Content derived response
Then getting a response back from the reader requires a higher level of engagement that is more content based. This is level 2.
The engagement is stronger depending on how well the content is relevant for and connects well with the reader. As a blogger/writer, unless you have an established or targeted audience, it is hard to know what type of content is going to relate the best.
In this instance trial and error is your best friend. However, there should be some method to the madness. Thus writing a general piece that would appeal to the widest audience possible, combined with little pixie dust of focused or highly targeted content in the post will also help to ‘reel in’ the right audience.
Level 3 Response – Deeper engagement
Finally, getting readers to re-post, recommend, re-tweet, suggest etc. are forms of Level 3 response and goal of a blogger.
While content is important in Level 2, it is also useful to have some sort of question or conversation generating element embedded in the post to elicit a level 3 response. Examples of this include the ‘Like’ button on Facebook, ‘Retweet’ button on Twitter and
comment box at bottom of blog posts.
With regards to Barbara’s email mentioned at the beginning of this post, it reached Level 1 for obvious reasons. My interpretation after reading it was that it was informative but it did not hit Level 2 (that a feedback is required), perhaps because of the particular time of day I read it, or what I was about to read next, or what I just read before. Heck, even I don’t know myself what happened.
So after my first knee-jerk reaction to the non-response from artist about my post, I realized not to take it personally. It was probably one or all of factors above (I did not know the artist personally thus the email probably did not get to Level 1 itself).
However, there is an important lesson in here for the bloggers/writers and companies as well. It is critical to take a moment to respond back to your most avid readers/important clients for reasons of mutual courtesy and simple acknowledgement. I have seen this virtue demonstrated in every blogger that I follow who has a vast readership.
Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, whose editorial team scours and cuts through all marketing noise to provide practical online marketing advice to a community of more than 432,000 entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and professional marketers at the world’s largest corporations.
Ann’s response to my query on input on Level 3 response was
“In my mind, what you’re talking about here is relationships. The best marketers use social channels to build relationships with customers and prospects, so that they inspire a response (what you call Level 3)”
In other words, always keep the human touch in social media. Your reader/customer will appreciate it and make them want to come back to your site again.
This post was possible thanks to insights from career coach Barbara Chernin and Chief Content office of MarketingProfs Ann Handley. Their input is greatly appreciated.
To find out more on Barbara and follow her blog on career coaching please visit her Linkedin page at http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/barbara-chernin/44/26/932
To find out more on Ann Handley you can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/marketingprofs