Considering the Real-Time User Experience as an Engagement Strategy

Editor's Note: Today's post is by Rob Garner, Vice President of Strategy at iCrossing, a global digital marketing agency. 

EngagementWhen you stop and think about it, Internet marketers who advocate for relevant and authentic experiences are actually advocating for the consumer on behalf of your business, as well as the searcher, the social-network user, and their audience in general.

Traditionally, the user experience in Internet marketing design tends to apply toward the website experience in a “top-down” approach, meaning that site users enter the site from the home page and work their way through the site.

But the reality is that the user experience begins before they enter the website, from wherever they search or wherever they seek information outside of your owned assets. A real-time search and social mind-set takes part of the experience to the user, in addition to providing a basis for the audience to interact with your own assets, and this also provides a function of customer relationship management (CRM).

Fundamentally viewing real-time marketing in this way will help shape your overall approach and help guide everything you do to build a real-time method of interacting online. Thinking about the search and social user experience also changes when viewed in terms of engagement. Engagement is as much about advocating for a searcher or network audience as it is about optimization. By advocating for the searcher or user, you must perform market research and keyword research and create personas with the search experience in mind. You must seek them out in a meaningful and non-intrusive way, and you must do so through tools and through real human interaction.

Website and network experiences may also be thought of as “relational” in the sense that they are starting from the “outside in” as well.

Outside in means that the user experience starts before your audience enters your site or social space. With an overwhelming majority of Internet users utilizing search and social networks, this experience must become foundational to your marketing strategy. The challenge for user-experience groups is rooted in the question about “what is being done for a person entering your site from a search engine or social network,” especially when this initiating experience may begin with 20 to 75 percent of all site traffic and drills down into every part of the site. If your design does not address this problem, then the full picture has not been considered for user experience.

Conversely, the user experience must also be considered completely off-site and off-asset, because a large part of the experience is in social spaces not owned but you or your business. Ultimately, real-time user-experience strategy is about solving a problem for individuals, solving a problem for your audience as a whole, or satisfying search intent in some way. It goes beyond real-time content and into real-time interaction and participation.

If the solution does not present itself and become self-evident to the consumer at the point of consumption, then real-time interaction on behalf of your business can also provide an alternative form of relevancy to the audience experience. The difference is that the experience requires a human and conversational touch, while still solving a query intention or a problem.

Again, this is major strategic consideration and retooling of marketing philosophy, and even an understanding of “selling in” this concept may be required to enable your organization to make the transition to real-time marketing in a world of search and social.

For more articles on customer engagement, visit the Desk.com blog.