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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!