With 800 million Facebook users and 100 million tweeters, many businesses are jumping on the social media bandwagon and swiftly creating Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr accounts (sometimes just out of pressure from the marketing folks). But the question for businesses remains: are you truly ready to engage with consumers in the social media space? Do you really understand what engagement entails?
Communicating with consumers via social media outlets has become a two-way real-time conversation between brands and friends, fans or followers around the world. Accepting the “no holds barred” mentality that exists on the Web requires a loosening of control as employees listen, interact, and respond to the wants, needs and aspirations of consumers. Not sure if your business is up to the social media challenge? Consider these tips before your next post, pin or tweet:
Embrace transparency. Followers of your business, particularly on Facebook and Twitter, both want and expect to be engaged online. Negative feedback and complaints are a reality of the social media environment, and you must respond to them. Personalize the response to the individual, and offer tips, suggestions and advice to address complaints and problem areas. Answer users in real time, and don’t be afraid to foster a dialogue among the community of consumers who follow you online. Honesty is the only acceptable approach to garner respect from fans and followers.
Get real. Being authentic goes beyond maintaining a healthy image. Take customer relationship management (CRM) to the next level by getting to know your consumers and putting out feelers to understand your followers’ preferences. Conduct Facebook surveys, tweet out questions relating to your brand, or comment on users’ unfiltered thoughts and opinions. Single out users and reward them for liking, sharing or talking about your business. Fostering real relationships with your customers builds trust between the brand and consumer and enables users to see a value in your connection in the social media space.
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Understand the metrics and, more importantly, the behavior that drives them. Social media is continually evolving—as are marketers’ efforts to measure the significance of a like, share or comment. In addition to the helpful Facebook Insights analytics tool featured on Facebook, the list of social media metrics seems to be endless. But just knowing the numbers isn’t enough. It’s important to consider the behavior and the motivation behind a user’s decision to share or like branded content. It’s also productive to evaluate the results with regard to the content users respond to most frequently and positively and the time periods and frequency in which the interaction occurs.
Make your Facebook friends your new best friends. Consumers have literally become the voice of their brands. Let your followers become your biggest brand ambassadors, and encourage them to post their experiences with your business. Getting into the heads of your core consumers will allow you to understand how your brand is perceived by your customers. A recent Crowdtap survey suggests that 92 percent of consumers rely most on recommendations from people they know when making purchasing decisions. More and more, those recommendations are online.
Got Millennials? Emulate them. Follow popular blogs, publications and social media experts to stay current with the latest trends and conversation. Especially take heed of Generation Y—the most technology savvy and digitally connected generation today—and experiment with various online platforms such as Tumblr, Pinterest and other widely popular sites.
Speak the language your customers want to hear. Determine what consumers seek most from your brand as a social business. Is it advice, humor, stories or tweet conversations? Once you’ve determined your social media sweet spot, ensure your company maintains cross-channel integration among the traditional, mobile and social outlets where your customers “hang out.”
Social is part of today’s marketing landscape. There’s nowhere to hide, so just jump in!