A primer on Social Media: Listen, Build, Engage, Share

If you are just familiarizing yourself with social media and how to leverage it in your organization, Becky Carroll on the 1to1 media blog does a nice job of summarizing the benefits of Social Media, and how companies can leverage tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  She does a nice job of separating the “cool factor” and hype from tangible benefits that can be reaped.

Has your company leveraged Social Media to deepen customer relationships?Do you have plans to? What question or concerns to you have?  Soundoff.

Guest Blogger Becky Carroll: Social Media Builds Customer Relationships

One of the most common questions being asked right now is this: “What should my company do about social media?” As more and more businesses are jumping in and creating corporate profiles on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and flickr, marketers are feeling the pressure to jump on the bandwagon. Some of these marketers plan to use social media as a cool set of tools to build awareness about their company. However, it is much more than that. Social media can be an integral part of a strategy to build customer relationships.

Let’s look at how social media can be used to deepen customer interaction and increase customer loyalty.

Social media builds trust.
It allows companies to be perceived as more human. You aren’t just talking to Comcast; Frank Eliason is there for you. You want to know more about Zappos; Tony Hsieh tells it like it is. Customers don’t want relationships with faceless companies; they want relationships with other people. The use of social media hastens the trust-building process by putting people instantly in touch with other people–critical in these days of corporate bail-outs and public uneasiness. Trust is the main component of a strong customer strategy.

Social media builds community.
Customers can’t easily rally around a website, as there is little interaction there; but they can rally around a brand’s presence on social media. What makes these communities so powerful is that many of them have been built and sustained by a brand’s fans. Fiskars, which makes scissors, encouraged the formation of a scrapbooking community. However, it is their customer ambassadors, or Fiskateers, who are responsible for driving the conversation and inviting others to join in. National Instruments uses its community, powered by social media, to bring together business customers to share technical information with each other, which is then used in National Instruments marketing materials. These communities are examples of likeminded people coming together and interacting around a common purpose; in this case, a company’s products and services. Ongoing customer interaction and engagement such as these increase loyalty and ultimately rate of purchase.

Social media increases word of mouth.
It allows information to be shared peer-to-peer at light-speed around the globe. As a result, customers are turning to social media ratings and reviews to research an organization’s offerings before making a buying decision. This is especially true in the B2B environment, where a large number of B2B buyers are participating actively in social media for business–reading blogs, writing reviews, watching user-generated videos, and joining social networks (source: Forrester). All of this enables the rapid spread of company news and information, as well as the sharing of customer success stories. Organizations that enlist their customers to help evangelize their products and services via social media find those customers to be fiercely loyal and willing to share their experiences with others who are like them. This in turn builds trust, as well as the customer base.

Social media enables two-way conversations.
This is the gold in the equation. Where companies used to have to rely on one-way email blasts, advertisements, and direct mail pieces, they can now interact directly with customers via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and a myriad of other social media tools. More is required than simply hanging out a corporate shingle on these sites, however. Companies need to fit these conversations into their overall customer strategy and marketing communications plan. In so doing, they will be able to gain deep customer insight from these new online interactions, including an understanding of customer behaviors and needs, as well as online reach and influence.

Getting Started
The best way to begin using social media is to stay quiet. Yes, social media enables great customer interactions, but first it is important to do some listening. Once a company has spent time monitoring conversations–about the company, competitors, the industry–only then is it truly equipped to begin participating in conversation. This is the best way to be relevant when stepping forward and inviting customers into your virtual lounge to get to know them, their likes and dislikes, as well as their personal side. The foundation will be laid, and rich customer relationships have every opportunity to blossom from these online engagements.

via Guest Blogger Becky Carroll: Social Media Builds Customer Relationships – Think customers: The 1to1 Blog.

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