Engaging customers online

Engaging Your Customer Online: On Tribes, Foes, & Oxytocin

Recent neuroscience research reveals that the need for social connection is a primary human need, along with the need for food and shelter. Some even propose to modify Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid, positioning the need for connection in its center (instead of near the top). According to the SCARF model created by D. Rock (2008), a feeling of relatedness is one of the main ingredients for building engagement.

Relatedness involves deciding whether others are on our team or not. We are wired to form tribes because we want to belong. Our brains determine whether someone is a friend or foe very quickly and we use different circuits to process the two.

When we feel connected, our bodies produce oxytocin, a hormone responsible for the feeling of belonging, which helps us feel at ease with others. On the contrary, when we do not feel connected, our bodies generate a threat response. This explains why many people drink alcohol at parties. Alcohol acts like a social lubricant that helps us overcome the threat reaction strangers often trigger in our bodies.

As an online entrepreneur, you'd better be in the friends camp so all your products and your brand are processed by the "right" part of your customers' brain. When people feel close to us, they are more engaged with our company and our services. So how do you increase this feeling of connection and relatedness at a distance where we are deprived of physical cues?

Suggestions on how to increase relatedness:

  1. Create virtual groups, such as a Facebook private group, and try to connect with your participants before your program or service begins.
  2. Use icebreaking activities to build relationships among others. Spend a little time in the beginning of a program or after the customer buys your product getting to know them. Try to create activities that will make your participants figure out similarities with you and others who use your services.
  3. Create a welcome video and use video throughout the course or upon the purchase of your product. Many businesses and programs try to develop professional looking videos, spending thousands of dollars on production. While I don't encourage bad quality video, =a real video shot with a good camera and an internal mic produces better results, as it feels authentic to your customer.
  4. Use tools such as Voice Threat, wikis and forums, to let your participants discuss issues and comment on each other's posts.
  5. Use phrases such as "our class", "our group", or "our team" to encourage the feeling of belonging.
  6. Allow your participants to create communication rules, netiquette guides and common lists of values to follow in the cyberspace.

With these simple strategies you will make your brand stand out from the crowd. You will feel warm and connected to your customers.

I am sure you can think of other amazing tools to build connection with your customer.

Dr. Marina Kostina  |  www.wiredatheart.com
Dr. Marina Kostina is a distance learning expert, and an online business coach. She helps small business owners to transcend distances and leverage their work online without losing personal connections with their clients. Marina is also a co-author of an Amazon Bestseller, "The Golden Climate in Distance Learning" that helps online trainers connect, engage and enjoy the online environment.