Look at the premise behind Tripadvisor. Do you check the reviews on Amazon? Would you buy anything that has less than 4 or 5 stars? Community-based marketing is here to stay. Customers don’t want to be sold to via a tweet or a facebook post, rather in return for their brand loyalty, customers expect organisations to be responsive and share something of value. They need to feel engaged and informed in ways that make their lives and business easier.
Not yet part of the online conversation? Here are my thoughts on how to embrace social media as a fundamental part of your client engagement strategy.
Choosing your tools
Facebook. twitter, pinterest, linkedin……which do you choose? Tempting though it may be, don’t rush to have a presence on every platform. Be selective. Choose a few that are relevant to your customer base. Take the time to listen to what your customers are saying and where they are saying it. For example, 80% of Pinterest users are women. Pinterest itself has been valued at $2BN as its 25 million users are rich and like to spend on lifestyle related products – fashion, beauty and home furnishings. If this sounds like your customer base, this where you need to be. Get pinning! There is lots of data available describing the unique customer profile of each social network, which will help make the decision.
Don’t worry about being on every social network. Focus on the ones that your clients use as they are more likely to see your messages there.
Decide on objectives that are consistent with your company’s corporate strategy. Focus helps to evaluate the effectiveness of your campaign. Have clear objectives and measure against them. Do you want to raise awareness, facilitate social customer care; achieve transparency or build a community of followers…?
Measure, and use the right metrics
Chose metrics relevant to your objectives e.g. if twitter and facebook are being used for real time customer care, measuring fans and followers makes no sense. Metrics that reflect true engagement such as response rates and response times are more informative. 30% of twitter users and 25% of Facebook users expect a response within 30 minutes (Brandwatch, 2014). How are you comparing? Is there room for improvement?
Customers don’t want to be sold to via a tweet, a blog or a facebook post, rather in return for their brand loyalty, customers expect organisations to be responsive and share something of value.
A company does not need an army to operate a social media programme. It can be kept small and manageable, particularly if you collaborate with staff and customers to generate content and ideas. Are you running a café or restaurant? Encourage customers to check in via Facebook, tagging their dining pals or posting photos of their meal to Instagram. Time saving tools such as buffer, hootsuite and tweetdeck, allow you to manage multiple social media accounts on one easy to use platform.
Don’t underestimate the importance of company culture. Think about it, are you really ready to be a ‘socially engaged brand’? If it’s not part of your company’s culture to be helpful and approachable, this will come across online. Ryanair achieved a recent 360° turnaround in its attitude to social media, with twitter, facebook and a revamped website now playing a key role in building a more approachable, customer-friendly image. Whether or not it has achieved the same change in culture, time will tell.
Once your company commits to social media, you have to stay part of the conversation. Questions via facebook or twitter shouldn’t be ignored as that just frustrates customers. As Brandwatch’s statistics clearly show, customers have high expectations when it comes to online customer service.
It pays dividends to put people first in terms of customers and employees; all of whom have the potential to become brand advocates. Employees can be trained to become comfortable with social media. Empower them, treat them well and, in turn, they will treat customers well.
Converse online the same way you do in your day to day life. Write about what you know. Be yourself. Be honest an authentic and that will lead to you building authentic, fruitful relationships
Finally, develop that all important content. Bite the bullet and use this as an opportunity to showcase you and your company’s expertise. Share you insights; post pictures, articles, responses that followers will want to look at, comment on and share. After all, it’s just another conversation. Track mentions and responses over time and you will soon develop a feeling for what type of content and subject matter goes down well with readers.
By connecting openly and consistently with customers, by engaging in a two way conversations rather than simply broadcasting; organisations can and will build a motivated community of followers, who in turn might serve as very useful brand advocates.
Social media is here to stay and is fast becoming the cornerstone of any marketing and communications strategy. Customers are becoming increasingly demanding with regard to online response. This has implications for any public facing organisation’s approach to customer care and communications – on and offline.
About the author: Suzanne Shaw, MBA, is an independent marketing professional with 20 years’ experience in developing and implementing business development, marketing and communications strategies working in a wide range of sectors and businesses, from startups to SMES and large corporations.