Businesses, Social Media Is for More Than Just Marketing

Businesses, Social Media Is for More Than Just Marketing

Snapping photos on the beach and sharing regular status updates has become the norm for communication. Whether it’s announcing your newborn baby or venting over daily frustrations, nearly every social media platform allows you to share your (digitally altered) life seamlessly.

In the business world, social media has become a go-to for brand development and customer care. It’s an easy way to stay in touch with customers and creatively market your products or services. 63% of millennials report staying up to date on brands through social media, and 46% of millennials use social media when making online purchases. Businesses are beginning to digest these statistics and leverage social media’s role in their customers’ lives. Now, 78% of companies report that they have teams dedicated solely to social media.

Though social media fits neatly into an effective marketing campaign, it can be used for much, much more than that.

 

Customer Service

While traditional support channels hide the customer behind the interaction, leaving you with just an email or phone number, social media support is a real glimpse into your customers’ lives. It can serve as a fantastic customer service tool that adds transparency and humanity your customers appreciate. Questions are often answered for all to see, leaving little room for poor, half-baked responses.

It’s also highly efficient. Tons of businesses use Twitter as a support and customer communication tool. You can educate thousands of followers with one tweet and cut down on emails, calls, and chats. This is especially useful during service outages, product releases, or anytime you expect high demand.

These channels generate valuable feedback too. Facebook and Google+ reviews offer valuable customer happiness insights and add a level of trust for prospective customers researching your business. Positive peer reviews are also more likely to land you a sale than self-marketing, so these rating features go a long way.

 

Customer Engagement

When you’re present on someone’s feed, you’re more likely to influence their next plan or purchase. Offer rewards through social media. Create contests and incentives for people to “check in” at your location, or offer coupons in exchange for page likes and shares. At the very least, you’ll gain some screen time on their social feed and catch someone’s eye. And ideally, you’ll encourage repeat business that evolves into a loyal customer base.

Increased engagement means increased customer retention. The more you can get your followers chiming in or clicking through—whether that’s with exclusive deals, helpful content, or genuine and thoughtful messaging—the better your chances of keeping them around. Try spurring discussion on your page or around a specific post by inviting your followers into the conversation. The topic doesn’t have to be your business or services, but something relevant to your industry that builds an association with your brand.

 

Product Development

User commentary can shed real light on companies’ strengths and shortcomings. Listen to what people say and incorporate the best feedback into your business/product roadmap. Customers will appreciate their impact and likely offer more constructive criticism down the road. Plus, what better way to improve your products and generate new ideas that your target audience really wants?

The life of a product or service can also be extended by resurfacing older content. For example, if you publish a blog post about a new product, plug last month’s release too. When you re-share “old” news along with fresh content, you can revive interest and catch the eye of users who missed it the first time around (likely a lot of them, since our feeds are so oversaturated these days). And since we’re on the topic, don’t forget the role social media plays in product marketing.

 

E-Commerce

Welcome to the age of online ordering. It’s more convenient and cost-effective than traveling to the store or making a phone call, especially now that the majority of online retailers have free and fast shipping options. As of 2015, 69% of adults shop online monthly and 33% weekly. If you only sell products at your location, you’re limiting your reach considerably. Online and mobile ordering removed the geographical constraints that limit your market.

So how can you leverage social media for online sales? First off, shareability. When you sell online, you can offer discounts to buyers who share a product or service with friends over social media. Groupon is a great example of this: if you get X amount of friends to buy the same deal as you, your purchase is free. Secondly, social media can be used as an independent online shop.Facebook pages can serve as online shops. Pinterest is a prime online commerce tool. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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Human Resources

Businesses are no longer only limited to ads and word-of-mouth to find the best employees—top talent can be recruited through social media. Sites like LinkedIn let them share job openings site-wide and conduct better candidate screening. The social element adds a whole new layer to the traditional interview process. You may “connect” with a potential candidate before you ever interview them, gaining access to their network, interests, endorsed skills, and more. This modern transparency is a far cry from old school hiring.

It’s a whole new world for job-seekers too. You can apply for positions right through LinkedIn and even see how many applications have already been submitted, or check out a company’s Glassdoor reviews for a glimpse into their culture. My college newspaper has a Facebook group for its alumni staff; members are constantly sharing openings at their companies and encouraging others to apply. And on any site, users can easily share listings with friends and family who may be interested.

 

Networking

While making connections used to mean circling up at a conference and trading business cards, these days you can gain as much—if not more—networking value from social media. It’s never been easier to engage with other professionals and make highly personal connections that flourish and last. You can also tell a lot from a person’s profile and the content they regularly publish.

LinkedIn is obvious for this purpose, but Twitter is an incredible networking tool as well. Much like walking up to a circle of strangers and introducing yourself, you can start conversations or join active discussions by tweeting at other users. Twitter lacks the “friends-only” vibe of Facebook—its users typically welcome followers they don’t know personally, and the most active often interact daily with people they’ve never met face-to-face.

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Conclusion

It’s easy to see what the future might hold with social media. Be your own time machine—stay up on the latest industry trends and anticipate advances to get a head start. Research what customers are saying about competing brands and let that inform your strategy. Better to learn from another company’s mistakes than make them, and better to celebrate their successes as teaching moments too. If used to its full potential, social media can drive success creatively and at little cost to businesses. So log in!

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Social Media Don’ts for Small Business

Social Media Don’ts for Small Business

A strong social network can become an asset for any business. Social media offers every business the opportunity to strengthen relationships with their target audience, creating loyal customers and even brand advocates. Exploiting this potential is no easy feat, but can be done if the medium is used well.

Unfortunately, many companies are still not getting the best out of their social media accounts. Yet social media is big business: 74% of all internet users use social networking sites, and for younger adults it’s even more. That’s a huge readjustment of the traditional marketing paradigm.

The fact is, if you want to reach your audience, social media is the place to start. But avoiding the many pitfalls can prove difficult.

Don’t Create Accounts Just Because

Everybody’s doing it, and they’re telling you that your business should be too. It may be great for other businesses, but you just aren’t sure how it can help your company.

If you aren’t clear on the benefits of social media, then the chances are you aren’t going to use it properly, and it could be damaging to your business. Yet, no presence on social media is a poor choice as well. Even if you aren’t on Facebook or Instagram, your audience is, and they’re likely having a conversation about you—without your input.

Take the time to understand social media and what it can do for you, and invest the time and budget needed to do it well.

Don’t Ignore Social Norms

It’s difficult to get the tone right on social media. Each social network has different systems, rules, and social norms. What is acceptable on one network may be a social faux pas on another.

Unless you’re confident on each one, it’s only natural that you will make mistakes. But getting your tone right is a must. Common expectations of corporate behavior include:

  • Take the time to respond to messages left by customers; social media is about engagement and conversation should be a two way street.
  • Don’t talk about yourself continuously, or spam your followers’ feeds with sales messages.
  • Don’t be needy. Asking for retweets and likes for your content is frowned upon. If the content and messages you are sharing are truly interesting and insightful, shares, likes, and retweets will take care of themselves.

Don’t be afraid to be imperfect (in fact humanizing your brand is a good thing on social media) but be aware you are expected to follow the unwritten rules of social networking behavior.

Don’t be Present on Every Social Network

Spreading yourself too thinly across every social network is a common mistake. You want to be everywhere so you can maximize the opportunity, but cast the net too wide and it will be difficult to network effectively across all channels.

Building a strong network on 1 or 2 social media platforms is much better than having a weak and patchy presence on them all. It’s more difficult for a business to regularly update many social media accounts. Even if you manage to maintain a regular presence, the quality of your content will probably suffer. Being on too many social networks will undermine your brand values, not reinforce them.

Each social network has its own strengths, and they are popular with different audiences. Choose one or two that are best for you. Research them to find out where your audience hangs out and think carefully about what you want to achieve on social media. If you are a creative, youth oriented brand, Instagram or Snapchat may be a great social network for you to engage your audience. Conversely, if you’re a B2B company, LinkedIn may the best choice.

Don’t Favor Quantity Over Quality

Your social media presence should be about brand awareness and customer engagement, and these goals should be at the heart of your business strategy on social media.

Too many businesses use social media as a broadcasting channel or sales channel. But social media isn’t just a free advertising channel – it has the potential to build a relationship with your target market and improve customer loyalty. But first you have to get your content right.

In order to build your network you must consider your customer’s needs and have a content strategy in place. An unfocused approach that prioritizes quantity of content over quality isn’t going to be successful. If it doesn’t provide value to your audience, they aren’t going to engage with you.

Don’t Ignore Comments

Building a conversation with your customers is the holy grail of social media. But many businesses invest most of their time building awareness and growing their network, rather than having a conversation.

Comments from customers are the beginning of a dialogue with them, the moment at which they give you permission to interact with them. Yet research has found 9 out of 10 social media comments sent to brands are ignored.  The same research found people expect a response within 4 hours, and the average is 10 hours.

Take the example of British Airways. In 2013 a customer promoted a tweet to complain about the customer service, the company’s Twitter account was only monitored during office hours so there was a delay in their response, which gave the tweet plenty of time to circulate around the Internet.

It’s ironic that so much energy is spent building a social network to strengthen customer relationships and the opportunity to do so is ignored when it presents itself. Balance building your social presence with strengthening your network and always respond to your customers promptly.

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Don’t Remove Negative Comments

We all want to show ourselves in the best light possible, but sweeping negativity under the carpet is simply going to infuriate dissatisfied customers even more. No organization is perfect, but show you are prepared to learn from your mistakes by facing them head on.

People are increasingly expecting a response to their complaints through social media. They won’t call you, they won’t write (not even an email), they will however take to social media to inform you, and everyone in your network. It’s a particularly public form of complaint, and you need to be ready or it could prove costly. United Airlines paid a heavy price for poor complaint management in 2008 when a disgruntled passenger took to YouTube after getting no satisfaction from their complaints procedure.

When this happens, be professional and don’t be defensive. The old adage (some might say cliché) about a complaint being an opportunity is certainly true on social media. You can’t stop people from complaining about you, but you can demonstrate a willingness to learn from any mistakes. Not just to customer with the issue, but to all your customers in your social network.

Don’t be Complacent About Security

All a disgruntled employee needs is your login and password, and they have access to your entire social network, including customers, partners, and your target audience. The potential to damage your reputation and lose business is incalculable.

In 2013, an employee of British retailer HMV hijacked the company’s Twitter account. Senior management was helpless as it didn’t know its own password.  

To avoid this situation happening to you, put in place a system that secures your social media accounts and reduces the potential for reputational damage.

  • Set up limited permissions for selected staff to update your social media. Managing your social media accounts shouldn’t be left to a low-level employee.
  • Make sure publishing rights are only given to a select number of people who have responsibility for overseeing the suitability of the content (though many people in the organization should be encouraged to draft content).
  • Train your staff about social media.

Complacency can lead to public embarrassment; put in place security measures to protect the integrity of your brand.

Don’t Rely on Automating Updates

It’s understandable businesses are inclined to reduce the burden of updating their social media accounts by automating them. But automation tools should be used with caution; they can never be a substitute for true engagement with customers.

Businesses should take care to ensure customer engagement isn’t forgotten in the rush to reduce workload.  Without customer engagement you are reducing your social networks to a promotional tool, or a cheap advertising channel, and you won’t get any value out if it.  Your customers can’t have a conversation with an automation tool.

Don’t Treat it as a Marketing Function Alone

It’s often the case that businesses fall into the trap of ‘silo thinking’, and social media is no exception. In organizations that still treat social media as a promotional tool, it’s often left in the control of the marketing function.

In recognition of its increasing importance as a means of managing the customer relationships, many organizations are now taking a decentralized approach to reflect customer expectations. Your social network is now a sales channel, a promotional channel, a customer service channel, and a market research channel. To get the best out of it, and to meet your customers’ expectations, move it out of the marketing department and make it an integral part of your customer relationships.

Conclusion

The place of social media in business strategy has evolved, and it has moved from just a marketing device to a tool that’s of strategic importance to your company and its brand. Many companies haven’t embraced its full potential.

Organizations need to remember customers are using social media as a place to discuss and complain about brands whether the company is engaging with them or not.

 

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