Building a Social Media Bridge to the Consumer – Social Media, Audience Engagement, and Long-Term Sustainability
Social Media – the diverse spectrum of user sites including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest – has evolved into a powerful business tool for cementing sustainable and personal relationships with customers. Used by businesses as a promotional medium to drive sales, Social Media has a big impact. The bigger impact, though, may be achieved by businesses which use Social Media as a platform to develop a long-term relationship with their customers and all their stakeholders. The focus is on building sustainability based on audience engagement and customer loyalty. The ROI has a longer payback time-line, but the result is a more defensible business model with higher-value customers, higher customer retention rates, and higher long-term profitability.
More than two billion people have active Social Media accounts, and every day the internet lights ups with 500 million Tweets, 4.5 billion likes on Facebook, and 95 million photos and videos uploaded onto Instagram. Every. Day. Following are eight ways to leverage this prodigious activity to benefit your business.
- Obtain customer insights: With every use of Social Media, customers are disclosing who they are, what they like, and, if invited to, how they value your product, service, or brand. These data points provide insights and direction for determining product preferences, buying/shopping habits, brand allegiances, and how to earn the loyalty and ongoing patronage of your customers.
- Enhance brand awareness and loyalty: Social Media enables your customers to connect with you on their terms. A study by The Social Habit concluded that 53 percent of consumers who follow brands on Social Media demonstrate more loyalty to those brands.
The value of Social Media as a tool to reinforce customer engagement, retention, and loyalty is the main driver. But consider the role that Social media plays in how consumers discover, research, and share information about brands and products. The Nielsen/McKinsey company reports that 60 percent of consumers researching products through multiple online sources learned about a specific brand or retailer through social networking sites. Active social media users are more likely to read product reviews online, and 3 out of 5 create their own reviews of products and services. 81% of women and 72% of men tell others about products that they like. Consumer-generated reviews and product ratings are the most preferred sources of product information among social media users. These are statistics which point at the power of Social Media as a customer acquisition tool.
- Provide customer service: More than two-thirds of consumers report using social media for customer service activities. They expect fast response times and 24/7/365 support. A study by Aberdeen Group revealed that companies providing customer service on Social Media sites experienced annual financial increases at a rate more than double those without a customer service option provided on Social Media.
- Funnel customers to your website: One of the most significant benefits of maintaining a robust presence on Social Media is to direct people to your website. The more social media shares you receive, the higher your search ranking will be… a positive feedback loop that serves as a kind of organic search engine optimizer (SEO).
- Target content and ads: Geo-targeting is a powerful mechanism to distribute brand and product messages to a specific audience based on location (including countries or demographic parameters). On Facebook, for instance, you can target location, demographics, interests, behaviors, and connections. And importantly, these platforms facilitate the tracking and measuring of the performance of ads in real time so learnings can be applied in a rapid-response fashion.
- Build relationships: Social Media is not a one-way channel of communications. Social Media represent an opportunity to foster and sustain high levels of audience engagement in ways that traditional advertising and promotion never could. Marketers’ mindsets should be about dialogue, give-and-take interaction, and continuous experimentation. The unilateral broadcasting paradigms associated with traditional media do not transfer well to Social Media.
- Sell softly: The Social Media audience does not want to be constantly on the receiving end of advertising and promotion. They are seeking connection, conversation, affiliation – even with the commercial relationships that define their consumer personas. The Social Media Examiner, a worldwide digital marketing organization, advocates the 70-20-10 rule: 70% of your content should be information that is relevant to your customers with little or no commercial agenda, 20% should be content from other providers, and 10% can be sales and promotion oriented. When selling, be certain to include discounts, coupons, limited-time opportunities, and new releases. Some things never change!
- Act as an industry resource: Consistently providing the type of information (tips, advice, recommendations) your audience has an interest in produces a reputation as a trusted industry resource. The “likes,” “shares,” and positive word of mouth will contribute to your commercial objectives. Curating excellent content – regardless of the source – will add value to your platform, and users will be more receptive to your own content without perceiving it as disguised selling.
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