Written by Lee Price

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Dennis Stoutenburgh and Kristen Stoutenburgh are a father and daughter who both work in social media. The family came together at Summer Brand Camp to share the importance of connecting with customers of every generation using social.

Dennis and Kristen don’t have to look far to understand how different generations use technology differently — they just have to look at the family phone bill. In their own family of five, the kids (all in their teens and early 20s) are four times more likely to use their cell phones to send a text or do mobile research. The parents are nine times more likely to make an actual phone call.

KristenThe Stoutenburghs’ family trends relate directly to national trends. Millennials and baby boomers differ in how they like to connect, but social media brings together consumers of all ages. While millennials are more likely to use mobile to research products, trust online reviews over friends’ referrals, and rate products and services online, 43% of all consumers are more likely to buy a new product when they learn about it on social media.

Social media gives you unprecedented access to customer voice, competitive intelligence and opportunities to engage. So, their question to campers in Dallas: Why wouldn’t you embrace your customers on social?

Here are a few reasons that brands avoid or ignore social:

  • You can’t control the message. (That can be scary for brands, since anyone can say anything they want about your brand on social media.)
  • Senior leadership is looking for ROI, and they can’t always track direct ROI on social.

dennisBut, there are simple ways to overcome both of those fears about social media. Dennis stressed that every interaction on social media is a chance to engage with customers and promote your brand. He warned not to listen to hard and fast rules from social media consultants about when to or not to engage. Instead, look at every interaction as an opportunity.

As far as what brands should share on social media, the Stoutenburghs listed the most common reasons that customers engage with a brand online:

  • to get rewards
  • for communication or customer care
  • for entertainment
  • to find a community

Kristen shared her own real-life social media success story. As a marketer for the University of Notre Dame Athletics Department, her goal was to drive more community interest in less high-profile teams like cross country, swimming and tennis. To accomplish that engagement, Kristen created a variety of content for each team, focusing on athletes’ personalities and accomplishments and sharing behind-the-scenes pictures from athletes on the road. She gradually built a community around each team, which resulted in increased attendance at the teams’ events.

The duo’s message: Customers are dying to engage with your brand. Take advantage of every opportunity to interact and build your brand on social media — and remember, every interaction is being watched. There’s value in the your brand’s direct interactions and in the onlookers who are watching your brand’s online conversations, too.