What Flash Mobs Can Teach Us about Audience Engagement

No doubt, we’ve all seen a viral video (or two or three) of flash mobs serenading shoppers in the middle of a mall or train station like the one below.

These events are cool and fun, but they can also teach business owners a lot about audience engagement. Here are five important strategies you can learn from flash mobs.

1. Never underestimate the element of surprise. Messaging can become stale over time. If you’re delivering the same messages day in and day out to your customers, you’re making it easy—too easy—for them to zone out. You don’t want your name to fade into the background. This is why shaking things up from time to time by surprising your customers is a smart strategy.

How to do this: Here’s the good news: You don’t need to stage a version of The Sound of Music in the middle of a train station to get your customers to notice you again. The point is to do something different.

Run a social media contest. Hold a special sale. Create compelling offers in a different format. For example, if you typically deliver all your offers as white papers, shake it up and deliver your newest one as a SlideShare.

2. Get silly. We see too many small businesses—especially b2bs—resist their funny sides. What b2bs tend to forget is that even though it’s one business selling to another, you’re still dealing with humans. Human beings are complex creatures. We can be somber, serious, silly, fun, and many other emotions in between.

Businesses usually have the “serious” part down pat. So why not take a chance with a little silliness? If you have a great product or service, do you really think a potential customer is going to cross you off the list simply because you had a little fun and made him or her smile in the process?

How to do this: Here are some ideas that’ll tickle your customers’ funny bones: Have more fun with your email subject lines. (We promise that “fun” and “professional” aren’t mutually exclusive terms.) Create “behind the scenes” videos featuring the people and places around your office. Edit your blog editorial calendar so that you have at least one “silly” post a month. Maybe it’s a post penned by the office pooch, or maybe it’s a post featuring an office outing to the local ice cream stand. You can take pics of everyone’s ice cream cone and riff about what the different flavors say about each person.

You get the idea. Yes, some of these suggestions will cost a little extra time and/or money, but the deeper audience engagement you create will deliver the ROI you’re looking for.

4. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Be on the lookout for creative ways to engage with customers. Follow other businesses that do it well and don’t be afraid to borrow ideas.

How to do this: Review your blog and newsletter subscriptions and social accounts. Make sure you’re following the brands and businesses—both large and small—that do a great job with customer engagement. For example, we subscribe to lots of company and brand newsletters simply to see what sorts of email subject lines get our attention.

5. Embrace crowdfunding. What’s cool about most flash mobs is that people from different walks of life come together to support an initiative, whether it’s simply to entertain and bring smiles to people’s faces or for a bigger purpose, such as getting the message out about an important cause.

Well, guess what? You have “crowds” of people available to you as well. They’re called your customers, and you’d be surprised what they might be willing to do if you asked them.

6. Don’t get hung up on the viral part. No one can predict with 100% certainty whether something will go viral. Yes, flash mobs often do go viral, but if we asked the people participating whether they cared or not if it did, we be most wouldn’t.

How to do this: Never, ever create a marketing or promotional campaign for the sole purpose that you want it to go viral. You’ll likely be disappointed. And you’ll also have missed the point.

What do you think? Is there anything else we can learn from flash mobs regarding audience engagement? Share in the comments.

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