The art of building an engaged audience in the tech industry

The tech industry has an engagement problem.

Unless you’re a tech megacorp, building an engaged online audience feels like an exercise in futility. This feeling is especially keen when you are selling a product that is not tangible.

That is the case for us at Rebel.com, where we specialize in web hosting, domain names and website design. These are all products that people need if they are looking to take their business or idea online, but not things that can be easily communicated through stunning product photography – a hallmark of building engagement on some of the world’s most popular social media platforms. In other words, tech is not “sexy."

What Rebel.com did

When I first started at Rebel.com over four years ago, we were in the midst of changing our company name and building the Rebel brand from the ground up. This meant I was uniquely positioned to define the voice of the company online in a way that differentiated us from our competitors. Understanding what the top players in your industry are doing on social media is an important component for your own strategy, but I caution against getting too concerned with trying to “keep up” with them. Only you know what makes your company special and why customers should choose you – it’s up to you to communicate that in a compelling way. Why sound like everyone else when you can sound like yourself?

In fact, I would say that the most important lesson you need to learn about social media is that your audience is savvy. They can sniff out inauthentic sentiments from kilometres away. Social media is rife with corporations trying to fit in by jumping on the latest meme, but if it doesn’t fit with your brand and your voice, it comes across as desperate and tone deaf. Instead, what we did at Rebel.com was talk with our online audience the way we would talk to them in real life. We ditched the corporate speak and empty platitudes and focused on being ourselves.

This strategy resulted in Rebel.com building an engaged audience because the people who follow us want to speak with us. Rather than chasing follower numbers, which has increasingly become a vanity metric only, we focused on finding the people who wanted to hear from us and then speaking to them the way we would want to be spoken to: like humans.

In the end, what you’re selling is not the tech product that customers are unable to hold in their hands. What you’re selling is the people who make that product work – the people who make your company what it is. It’s the most important story you’ll ever tell.

Jasmin Bollman is the marketing manager of social media and content at Rebel.com. She is a writer, poet and storyteller based in Ottawa.