Building a Community Through Social Media
Social media marketing, when handled properly, is an absolute must to add into any marketing campaign. Not only do social media websites aid in the overall efforts made with SEO, the instant access to a company’s customer base is by far the fastest and most effective way to communicate with them. Sometimes, however, it can be a detriment if there is a social presence but no one monitoring the social sites. Imagine a customer going into your store or corporate office headquarters wanting to return an item, praise your company for a job well done or perhaps had a question regarding your services; but there was no one there to greet them when they walked in the door. No one there to take their question, concern or praise. How do you think that would leave that person feeling when they left your establishment? You guessed it, pretty crummy.
With social media marketing, you can directly engage with a diverse community all over the world. Even without availing of paid advertisements, people can instantly discover your content through “hashtags” and referrals or “word of mouth” from their family, friends and peers. Due to the high accessibility of social media websites, you open the gates to let your potential customers have an easy and direct communication with you. This kind of engagement is unique to social media marketing. You can respond easily to whatever your prospective customer communicates through social media.
In addition to that, your business, regardless of its size and profit, can foster unique relationships with their customers and clients. This doesn’t happen with transactions done over the phone or even on your company’s website. Social media has a more approachable impression to people. This will help you build good relationships with your customers, which in turn would make them come back and do more business with you. Moreover, you could gain more customers through word-of-mouth referrals.
Social media marketing helps you create an authentic identity for your brand. When you provide a good place to engage with the community you attract, you build a certain authority for your brand within your industry. Seeing your business as trustworthy and responsive, people will start to trust your brand and come to you as their first choice whenever they need relevant products and services.
Providing high quality and helpful resources can also help your competitor in your industry. Yes you read that right but don’t let that discourage you. The more people you help, the more you can solidify the authority of your brand. Most retailers today provide free and helpful content through blogs in their websites. This can make your brand appear highly valuable because of the helpful contents you provide.
How Your Customers Will “Like”, “Love” Then “Defend” You
You will not always attract the same kind of people in the community you are trying to build. Some may resent, hate or love your brand. Social media marketing can help you to strengthen your relationships with those who like your brand and the content you provide. They will eventually start to love your brand and be willing to defend your business.
You can’t convince people to instantly defend your brand. The first step is to get your target market to like your business. In order to do that, you have to meet their expectations. At first, this kind of engagement feels like a neutral transaction without any chance for a bond to form, but don’t let that fool you.
Just like in a typical relationship, it takes time to form strong bonds. Social media marketing can help you form bonds with your customers which can take your business to the next level. You want to give your customers positive experiences with your brand. Naturally, you can’t maintain a 100% positive customer experience. Complaints and adversities will arise, but let these challenges serve as a stepping stone to forge a stronger bond with your customer.
You can help your customer resolve a problem through a conversation via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Brands today are doing extra measures to improve their customer relationship. Some brands interact with select social media users and send them product packages. This will naturally create a positive impression on the brand and more word-of-mouth referrals.
This “like” and “love” relationship with your brand can develop into a stage where your loyal customers are willing to defend your brand. Social media marketing can help you attain this stage. When your customers defend your brand, it means that they are engaging with other people by providing recommendations and advocating your products and services. Some brands pay people to give negative outputs about a competitor’s brand. With a strong alliance of loyal customers that you have built through the years, you can protect your brand from detractors.
Some businesses make the mistake of letting their community handle customer service. While it’s true that some members of your brand’s community may volunteer to offer solutions based on their experience, it is not your customer’s job to resolve the problems of other customers. However, you can take advantage of this by recognizing and awarding your community’s active participants. Do you ever wonder why some brands have awards for their community like “commenter” or “liker” of the week?
When each member of your community knows that they are being valued, you will feel it on your workload. It’s easy for a brand to speak for itself, but how many brands out there have a loyal community that stands up for them? Maintain your community engagement efforts and give excellent products and customer service to earn an authentic community that will be willing to interact directly with you and other potential customers as well.
You are not merely concerned about increasing sales volume and making large profits. Social media can give you a unique community engagement that will benefit your company in the long run. Let everyone in your company contribute to your social media presence so they can get a bigger picture on how social media affects their company. Here are some valuable areas of social media marketing.
Creating Valuable Content
Content creation aims to satisfy the people’s needs in relation to what you’re offering. Here, search traffic data, on-site engagements and ways to increase website traffic are taken into account. When people feel that they are getting a lot of value in your social media account (with links to your original website), they will respect and admire your brand and would eventually avail of what you offer. Here are some content topics:
Helping People Learn and Improve
People are constantly searching for ways to learn and improve. Contents in this area should be clear because the audience is focused to put the information into action as soon as possible. You assert a dominant position by appearing to teach them something, thus such contents can build a brand’s authority over the discussed topic.
Gateways to Explore and Discover More
Content that belong to this category discusses new and creative ways to use your product. Your audience is open to new ideas and less inclined to criticize. Through such contents you can build better relationships with your community by allowing them to suggest ideas as well.
Question and Answer
Content that falls in this category aim to provide support to people’s needs when it comes to your product. Customers are quick to look for solutions online. This is the reason why most brands have “FAQ” section or a forum where customers can discuss and solve their problems with a related purchase or service.
As your community grows, you will discover that your customer themselves are helpful when it comes to providing helpful content. User-generated content is helpful to your business because it shows what your target market finds interesting and useful.
It’s impractical to manually track your interactions with your customers through different platforms. That is why it’s important to use analytics tools such as True Social Metrics and SimplyMeasured. People are naturally quick to talk about what they want. Aside from tracking your conversations, you can also generate ideas through analytics tools. Some of these tools come with a yearly or monthly fee for additional services. When you know where to look, it’s not that hard to learn helpful insights for your brand.
Good Customer Service
Complaints are common when people don’t get what they are expecting. With the rise of social media platforms, you see a lot of people venting their frustrations online. People can complain about your products and services on social media as well. Rather than feeling frightened, treat this instance as an opportunity to jump right in and volunteer to be of help to solve the problem. You will be surprised about the positive impact of being attentive to a customer’s complaints.
Bottom line: Learn to listen to your customer’s complaints or other comments to improve your own brand.
However, not all complaints can be helpful. Some customers can be vague when trying to communicate their complaints and concerns to you. Listening is thus a skill you should develop if you want to improve your brand’s customer service. Are they simply ranting? Or are they pressing you for a solution?
Aside from that, make sure that your company is easy to contact. With the use of social media, you can address your customers’ problems real-time. As mentioned earlier, there are some of your customers who will volunteer to entertain complaints and questions from other customers as well.
All customer service-oriented departments of your business should be consistent in social media participation. It is not solely the responsibility of the marketing department of your company. Good customer service through social media should be well-distributed across all related departments.
Product and Service Development
Businesses today have easier access to customers thanks to social media. In relation to this, not only customer service can be improved but also product development. You can browse in your community’s comments and messages and pick up ideas that will help you improve what you offer. Nevertheless, learn to discern what ideas would be beneficial for your company. Most people don’t know what they really want.
Not all customer input is helpful. While their feedback is important, your knowledge about your company’s product and services, as well as the costs far outweigh that of your customer’s. Some customer complaints are self-centered and are not really representative of your performance. In the end, you should be able to discern what’s best for your brand based on the context of your customers’ input.
It can also be helpful to sort certain members of your community. Based on your observations through the help of analytics tools, come up with a list of all constructive members. These can be bloggers, loyal customers, and professionals using your products, for example. Group then in an exclusive and secret or closed Facebook group or link them via email. You can also create restricted forums where you let your most active community members lead conversations where you can extract certain insights.
You are not the only player in the industry of your business. Learn what the people are saying about your competitors. With the information you gather, look out for problems and analyze the people’s sentiment regarding your brand and your competitors. These can provide your deeper insights to improve your brand.
Maximize what you can do with social media marketing. Through analytics tools and manual observation and research, you can have an overview regarding your brand’s performance. It’s not always about the number of “likes” your page has but rather, how well does your community interact with you.
Improving Human Resource Management
Social media can also be helpful for your company’s HR department. It can encourage employee engagement and even open a way to find new hires.
It can be tricky to include social media to various departments of your company. They should be well-coordinated regarding the kind of customer service and reputation that your brand maintains. Policies regarding employee access should be implemented to protect your company from risks. Get in touch with your employees before implementing the use of social media.
The HR department can tap into social media when it comes to the following:
More Opportunities to Recruit
Reaching new applicants is quicker through social media. Companies are easier to reach via social media. Facebook, for example, allows paid advertisements. People who have clicked “like” are automatically subscribed to your page. Also, job postings that you link through social media platforms are easier to spread, share and save. You should always have a professionally-done website for your company but learn to use social media to spread the word and connect to other people.
Advancing Your Career Growth
Basic computer knowledge nowadays isn’t enough to compete fairly with today’s workforce. Knowing the trends and functionality of social media is quickly becoming a mandatory skill, especially for HR professionals. Because of its versatility, social media is a helpful tool to network with other businesses, potential partners and even a niche. It also brings up new areas of opportunity for your brand’s growth.
As mentioned earlier, social media contributes better to the success of your company when it is utilized by more than one team. Acting as one organization, the different teams and departments in your company can have a better understanding of your current customers.
Well-distributed social media effort helps in maintaining your brand image by having a consistent voice when dealing with customers and promoting something from your company. With that said, certain guidelines and protocols should be implemented to everyone involved.
As for budding and well-experienced marketing professionals, what do these mean?
When more people throughout your company realize the importance and benefits of leveraging social media, you as a marketing professional will be able to focus more on your marketing plans instead of spending a bulk of your time trying to guide people in your company.
In addition, you will have the opportunity to get an overview of the costs incurred with using social media, allowing you to discern which part of your social engagement needs improvement. Planning involves multiple teams in your company so you don’t have to map out social engagement plans alone.
Getting Social Media Buy-In
Before finalizing your social media endeavors for your company, you will have to present a case about it. For that, you have to show valuable leadership skills to your clients or superiors. Building a business case is not easy, but you can equip yourself with these tips.
Conducting small-scale tests can help you gain an insight about what kind of business case should you build and present. Use your knowledge about your company and organization. When you already have a plan and a hypothesis set, you can embark on a trial that includes the current relevant issues that your company or organization faces. How does engagement through social media affect these issues? Were the changes positive or negative? If so, up to what degree? Also consider the time frame for your trial.
If it helps, you can also look into your competitor’s social engagement to gain a few insights. If you gained favorable results, present the results to the appropriate department or management team. This will also help you gain their trust to grant you more significant and more challenging tasks in the future, thus helping you with your career advancement.
Presenting Business Cases
There will be a handful of instances where you will be met with resistance when presenting a business case. No matter how convincing the results of your trials are, there will be some people who just don’t see the benefit of extending your organization’s effort through social media. Don’t give up. You can try creating more studies and trials to improve the reliability of your pitch.
Demonstrate how these will help the company and your brand in the long run. However, remember to always start small when creating trials to avoid big and uncalculated risks. Depending on the results of your case, you can tweak variables or expand to a bigger setting. If the data you have gathered supports your case, then you have a strong business case.