Since the advent of social media, brands have had to come to terms with the fact that customers are influenced more by their fellow fans and followers than by any marketing campaign. Look at the premise behind Tripadvisor. Do you check the reviews on Amazon? Would you buy anything that has less than four or five stars? The fact is that community-based marketing is here to stay. And social media is a great way of building and interacting with that community. Here are my top tips on harnessing this rich source of online loyalty.
Support with a strategy
Social media is just one aspect of a broader marketing and communications mix. Like any other activity, it needs to be supported with a rationale, strategy and implementation plan. 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. There is lots of data available describing the unique customer profile of each social network, which will inform this decision.
Have clear objectives and measure against them. Do you want to build brand, facilitate social customer care, achieve transparency or build a community of followers? Choose metrics relevant to your objectives. For example, if Twitter and Facebook are used facilitate real-time customer care, measuring fans and followers makes no sense. However, metrics that reflect true engagement such as response rates and response times are more informative. For example, thirty per cent of Twitter users and 25 per cent of Facebook users expect a response within 30 minutes (Socialbakers, 2014). How do you compare? Is there room for improvement?
Make it worthwhile to follow you
Your customers don’t want to be sold to via a Tweet or a Facebook post. Rather, in return for their brand loyalty, they expect you to be responsive and share something of value. They need to feel engaged and informed in ways that make their lives and business easier. Develop a plan to source and produce a constant trickle of ‘sticky’ content that resonates with your community. This content can and should be in a range of formats from articles to blogs, to short film clips to quick polls to info-graphics and the ever popular spontaneous photo. Be imaginative. Trial a few things and gauge your followers reaction. And remember, not all of your content needs to be generated by you. It’s perfectly legitimate to curate other people’s posts, like and reply to comments and get involved in discussions. That’s what social media is after all – another type of conversation. Don’t just broadcast, get involved!
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 and Hootsuite, allow you to manage multiple social media accounts on one easy to use platform.
Importance of Culture
Don’t underestimate the importance of your organisation’s culture. Ask yourself if you’re really ready to be a socially engaged brand? Be brutally honest. If it’s not part of your culture to be accessible, helpful and approachable, this will come across online.
Remember, once your company commits to social media, you have to stay part of the conversation. Questions and comments via Facebook or Twitter shouldn’t be ignored as that just frustrates customers and as statistics clearly show, customers have high expectations when it comes to online customer service.