The internet has given entrepreneurs and business owners possibilities that didn’t previously exist. Whether you’re selling consulting services, software, or golf balls, you can scale with efficiency, reach millions of people, and build a global brand all from the comfort of your home office. But there are also some tradeoffs associated with running an online business (compared to a physical business). In particular, you have to deal with the challenge of customer engagement.

How to Increase Engagement in an Online Biz

Customer engagement – often defined as the depth of the relationship a customer has with a brand – is a topic that’s supremely important to small business owners across all industries. Some would argue that online businesses are in a better position to engage customers in meaningful ways, while others would say the exact opposite. (After all, it’s harder to build a relationship when there’s no face-to-face interaction.) But whatever the case may be, there’s always room for improvement. 

Here are some specific tips for increasing customer engagement in an online business: 


  • Fully Leverage Social Media


Social media is the best tool in your engagement toolkit. No other channel gives you an opportunity to interact with your customers in such an organic and meaningful way. The key is to treat it like the two-way street that it is.

Brands often mess up by using social media as a platform for pushing out content, when it’s actually just as important for gathering information and listening to customers. Consider asking questions, requesting participation, and sharing content that’s thought-provoking and inquisitive. 


  • Produce Video Content


No content medium is as effective at engaging people as video. It’s visual, in-your-face, and captivating. But it’s not enough to simply create video content. You need to create magnetic video content that hooks your audience from the start.

According to research gathered by Facebook, 45 percent of people who watch the first three seconds of a video will keep watching for a minimum of 30 seconds. In other words, you need to get the introduction right. This isn’t an Oscar-worth masterpiece where you can spend the first two minutes reeling people in. Start with a bang and then backtrack (if necessary) to tell the complete story. 


  • Go Live


Underneath the heading of “video,” there’s a subcategory known as “live video.” While it took a few years to get going, live video streaming is now a best practice for brands using social media and you should be using it, too!

The beauty of live video is that you can interact with customers in a manner that’s very similar to in-person, face-to-face contact. It lets you ask questions, answer questions, gather opinions, and build rapport. 

While live video is typically used to reach larger audiences of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people, it can also be used as a tool for building more intimate relationships with individual customers. This is most common in consulting businesses or service industries, though it can also be leveraged in help desk or troubleshooting situations.


  • Host In-Person Events


Who says you have to stay online? While your primary business may be run via the internet, you may have an opportunity to host the occasional in-person event.

Hosting in-person events allows you to fast-track relationships with customers and cultivate rapport in localized markets. The key is to be mobile and flexible.

Buy a canopy tent that you can easily set up and take down. Also keep basic marketing materials on hand at all times. Then when you see an opportunity to attend an event – like a market, business fair, or fundraiser – you’re ready and able to spring into action. 


  • Develop Loyalty Programs


“Customers who are loyal to your brand are also the most valuable to your business,” HubSpot mentions. “In fact, studies show that customers who have an emotional connection to your brand tend to have a lifetime value that’s four times higher than your average customer. These customers spend more with your business, and therefore, should be rewarded for it.”

Don’t develop a loyalty program simply because other brands are doing it. Wait until you have the opportunity to create a program that’s on-brand and compelling enough to bring people in. By patiently waiting to launch the right loyalty program, you’re more likely to get the results you’re looking for. 

Get to Know Your Customers

If you aren’t already gathering powerful insights on who your customers are and what sort of online behaviors they exhibit, now’s the time to enhance your approach to data and analytics. For online businesses, this is the single best way to get to know your audience. Using the information you gather, you can better hone and optimize your approach to customer engagement.