As social media grows in popularity, it’s becoming more essential for companies. It’s no longer a viable option to disregard social as something frivolous: it is absolutely essential for engaging current and prospective customers. There are several ways to benefit from social media. When used correctly, it can increase customer reach, instil confidence in a brand, and help determine how customers interact with your business.
Understand its Nature
A lot of first time digital marketers tend to make a critical error when approaching the social media element of their marketing efforts, and it’s pretty frustrating. For years, I’ve seen brands assume that social media is just another outlet for sales, without ever considering the basic reason why people use social media in the first place. So, let me make it clear: social media is not for selling. The nature of social media is to connect and share, not shill.
So how can you make it work for you? Easy – keep the user’s needs in mind. We turn to social media for advice, and often end up influenced by the decisions of others in our circles. For instance, if you were looking to buy a new car, you’d probably look to your family and friends for advice. If you knew your neighbour had a great experience and was happy with his dealership, you’d take that into account when doing your research, and it would influence your decision. This is how a business can make social media work for them: by engaging current clients and customers on social channels, you are not only reaching them, but their ‘friends’ as well.
Social media can often help quantify user interaction with a business or brand. You should first determine your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). With social media, this can be the number of tweets, retweets, likes or shares (just to name a few), depending on your needs. You can then build your campaign around these KPIs. Here are some ideas to build and improve interaction:
- Contests: A mainstay of marketing initiatives, these are often great opportunities to capture useful user information while engaging your audience in a fun way that has a clear benefit to them.
- Facebook Polls: One of the lesser used elements of Facebook, you can easily post a query to your Facebook page and receive direct and instantaneous reactions from your audience. These are particularly useful in determining user preferences and opinions, especially around product development.
- Sales or Promotions: People are always looking for ways to save. A great promotion or sale that’s shared through social media can alert current and potential customers of your brand’s value.
Brand Management: One of the best reasons to use Social Media
Maintaining a presence on social media is important, especially to ensure consistency in messaging. It will also help you reach as much of your audience as possible. It’s a good idea to secure an account on as many social media platforms as possible, even if you aren’t planning on using them. Reserving your company’s name or handle ensures that you control it, and that it can’t be used by hackers, trolls or even disgruntled former customers to discredit you. Here is a list of notable social media platforms: I recommend targeting platforms that are appropriate for your audience, and opening an account as soon as possible.
Social media is also integral for crisis communication, an essential element of brand management. Transparency is critical when dealing with crises on social media, and can often alienate users when ignored. Do you remember the Applebee’s disaster earlier this year? After Applebee’s fired server Chelsea Welch over posting an insult-laden receipt on Reddit, users addressed the issue via Applebee’s Facebook page. Over 1,000 comments were coming in per hour, but instead of addressing the issue appropriately, at 3:06 a.m., an employee began tagging users with a copied message:
Sadly, it gets worse. In an attempt to hide the issues, Applebee’s deleted almost 20,000 posts. And then lied about it:
Click here for the full story with screen captures. In all, Applebee’s garnered more negative press for failing to use social media properly to diffuse the situation. Their lack of transparency in dealing with the issue only angered the public and tarnished the reputation of a once-popular brand. Their inability to understand the power of social media cost them thousands of customers, not to mention what will probably be an expensive PR campaign to restore consumer confidence.
In all, social media is now essential to your organization’s marketing efforts. By understanding the inherent needs of users on social media, you can create a genuine connection. Measuring engagement will help determine your campaign’s reach and success. Utilizing social as an integral brand management tool will ensure your long-term success. Can you afford not to?
About the Author
Bria Jordan is a Search Engine Optimization and Social Media consultant. A published writer for the last 14 years, she can often be found celebrating her off-time by bicycling through the city or cooking. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two cats.