Using social media in business has long been seen as simply a weak customer relationship management tool, a way for organisations to house customers and provide them with easy updates. But is that all that corporate social media is good for?
Frankly, no. However, it is remarkably easy for businesses to get social media wrong and can waste millions by not making effective and efficient use of social web channels. With access to a strong blend of media and technology, individuals require more stimulus online than just being a fan or a follower, they now want involvement, to feel a part of something whether it is a brand, product, movement or the next in vogue trend. So, how does social media fit into this new consumerism?
An uncomplicated mechanism of social media is that it can allow a business to easily communicate with its customers from a central point. Customers realise they no longer need to sit at the end of an automated phone system, they can log-on to their preferred social network and get in touch directly with the company (sometimes more quickly) to share feelings.
Social media has given consumers a greater voice, and channelling efforts over social web to engage with that voice, listen to it and respond can become an extraordinarily powerful tool. Making customers feel listened to and valued you are driving the reputation of your brand whilst at the same time receiving real-time feedback on how you are doing and what your customers want.
Insights and Reporting
Social media marketing is a concept that has been around for the last few years, but is very much an emerging industry in its own right. The concept involves building up a detailed view of your fans and campaigns in order to drive new initiatives, all via social media.
The key element involved is the information that can be gathered about your fans and any campaigns you run on social streams. Gaining insights into your users and what they thought of specific initiatives, brands or products enables a business to effectively tailor new campaigns or advertising initiatives to appeal to their active fans.
Knowing key facts like the percentage of male to female fans, the time of day they are most active, which type of campaigns fans were more engaged in; and who among your fans are the most active in sharing your message all enables a business to create more consumer specific content, which in turns boosts business efficacy.
Fans and Advocates
Across the mix of social networks, users have a participation ratio of 90%/9%/1%. Breaking this down, 90% of users offer no form of active engagement and will simply read content, 9% participate by liking, commenting and sharing with minimal obligation and 1% actively engage or influence other users.
Using these ratios may form part of your social media strategy, do you want to boost advocate users? Or do you simply want to appeal more to that 90%. To say you must do one or the other is misinforming, as it completely depends on you, your business and your overall requirement for your business’ social web involvement.
What is an advocate user? Advocates are those fans who have a keen interest in and actively share your content amongst their peers. Imagine your business posts an advertisement to your Facebook page. Fans of the business can like, share and comment on the advert, enabling you get instant feedback on their thoughts. However, there are a number of fans that have “influence” over their own set of friends and when they share content it receives attention from users that had previously not had any involvement with your business. Does that sound exciting? It should.
Knowing you have a number of these advocates enables the business to grow. You need to regard advocates as an extension of your business; virtual, independent marketers acting on behalf of your business. As such they needed to be treated with the utmost respect, get your engagement wrong with these users and they will inform and influence all they know.
That Sounds Like a Lot of Work
Depending on the size of your organisation it can seem like a daunting challenge to accomplish these core tasks, but you do not need to do it all. If you are a small high street store it may simply be enough to just engage with your audience to help boost sales. A butchers in Chichester, West Sussex who has taken to twitter so that customers can place meat pack orders in a click and collect fashion – it’s not a huge undertaking, but one that been fully appreciated by existing customers and has spread his business through word of mouth to a wider audience.
Clever use of social media can make all the difference between business growth and just another barely used Facebook fan page.
Rather than engage with fans directly, a gaming company may simply wish to create hype by challenging users to become brand or product advocates prior to the launch of a game to help boost sales.
Using social media the right way is a much better use of a business’s time than simply managing a presence over all social media networks. So, before embarking on your social media adventure, ask yourself the following questions and get social media right:
* What do you want your social web presence to achieve? (Sales, marketing, customers etc.)
* How will you use social media to achieve this?
* What do you want from your fans/ followers? (User participation ratio)
* How much time can you dedicate to social media?
* How much money can you spend on social media initiatives?
* Can I achieve this alone, or do I need to bring in expertise?