Our clients often ask us questions about social media – why should they use it, how can it help their business, how to use it effectively, etc. Selling products and services is certainly important; however, a rapidly changing world urges us to adapt existing strategies too. Social media helps to build relationships with potential customers and maintain the established ones with existing customers. It provides opportunities to better understand current customers and turn them into brand ambassadors, who are likely to increase your sales organically via word of mouth. Talk to, engage with, learn from your clients… then include a promotion or two.
Q: Why shall I create social media accounts for my business?
Remember a famous proverb that says, “fail to plan, and you plan to fail”; so similarly to the web and mobile app development, it is important to have social media strategy in place. However, it should not become a sole channel of communication, but rather it should be integrated in your marketing mix, and given as much weight as other elements such as email, advertising, etc.
Your strategy should acknowledge that all social media platforms play different parts in online community – those who ‘like’ your facebook page, might not necessarily be the ones who joined your LinkedIn group, followed your Twitter account, or added you to their Google+ circles. Hence, a message should be communicated differently on every platform according to users’ needs. The more social platforms you embrace – the bigger and more varied audience you gain, and the higher revenues you could make (if used wisely). However, depending on the nature of your business, you might need to opt for just some of them. Understanding your audience is critical.
As various research has shown, customers are more likely to spread a word about your brand when they are not satisfied with a product, they have had a bad experience of customer service, or have some other negative comments. If these concerns are published publicly on the Internet and get shared on social media platforms, it soon becomes easy to lose control over it and eventually you risk your brand gaining a bad reputation. Again, as many people know, but unfortunately they tend to forget – it is much easier and cost-effective to maintain reputation than gain it back.
Social media provides the best opportunity to engage with customers ‘here and now’, quickly respond to their queries and fix the issue. Nothing is more satisfying for a customer to see that their voice is heard and that they are personally valued; so in return they are likely to thank you publicly too. Moreover, such ‘thank you’ message, for instance, can then be ‘retweeted’ or ‘liked’, further propagating the positive image of your brand. So, as long as social media channels are used effectively, even poor customer feedback can result in a higher conversion rate by being turned into a positive one.
Q: How should I be using social media platforms?
It’s really easy to get lost with all the social media platforms that currently exist. Responding to customers’ concerns is not the only way to interact with your audience. If you are lucky enough and members of your online community share their positive interaction with the brand, make sure you also respond to it – thank them and keep in touch (these people are the ones who are most likely to share your content with their friends and followers).
You should also ask your audience questions and provoke interesting discussions. These do not necessarily have to be related to your product or even your niche – people love random questions, especially those on ‘hot’ topics, like #Olympics2012 that shook the world recently or #Halloween (one of the most trending Twitter topics as of today).
Add videos and pictures to your posts – it always grabs attention and increases likelihood of being shared than just a plain dull text. Make your content fun, creative, thought provoking, informative – there has to be a value for users to share it.
Make sure you know your target audience, their likes and preferences. What are the chances that car enthusiasts will passionately discuss fashion? However, triple choc cookie lovers might be pretty happy to talk about the countless types of coffee. It always helps to draw a picture of your typical user or buyer – what age they are, what do they do for a living, how do they spend weekends, and so on. Surely, there might be multiple profiles, so it is important to come up with all of them in order to have an engaging content for all the members of your community. Your shout outs should not be lost in the air; in order to be effective – they must be targeted to the right people.
Q: How long will it take before I can see the results?
This is the question that perhaps is asked most often by the ones starting up their business. It is much easier to establish your online community if you are a well-known brand with years of market presence. Now more and more companies start recognising benefits of social media, although many still fail to engage their audience.
However, building up your community is much harder and slower when you are a small business in your initial development stage. So stock up on patience and persistence; it won’t be easy and quick unless you are an exceptional startup like Pinterest, Spotify, or Instagram. Well, everyone should strive for it after all.
This is where strategy comes in to play. You should not be afraid of experimenting and testing what works best for your followers. Various online studies found that users are much more likely to subscribe when offered incentives. Try different contests with prizes, send out some free samples, offer unique discounts for your services; even as little as 5% or 10% – people love feeling special and recognised.
Scientists have just found that it is harder for people to resist social media temptation that more natural human urges, such as smoking or even sex; so no doubts every business should be socially active. Always remember though: gaining followers and ‘likes’ is just a start of your path; what you need to do – is engage your online community, and convert it into your clients.