Social media marketing without a plan is like shopping while tipsy on wine. It’ll take too long, you’ll spend too much and you might not like your look the next day. The path to effective business use of social media starts with focus. What are you trying to accomplish? For most companies, the end goal falls into one of these buckets:
- Enhance customer service
- Foster customer loyalty
- Generate leads
- Generate sales
Enhance customer service with social media
According to a 2012 American Express study, consumers spend more with companies that provide good service via social media. The flip side is that consumers are quick to buy elsewhere if companies provide poor service on social. So the advantages of ‘social care’ are there, but the risks are high if can’t pull it off. You increase your chances of success if:
You already have a successful, organized and trained customer service team.
Before you empower your service team to handle issues over social, you spend some time listening. Find out what people are saying about your company online. Identify ways to prepare your CSRs to (1) diffuse problems and (2) create amazing customer experiences.
Service resolution strategies are consistent across your organization. If your CSRs can offer a gift card over the phone, then the same rule should apply on social.
You define clearly when CSRs should take conversations offline.
You have 24/7 service. You need to have the resources to respond to social comments quickly, within an hour if possible. And you don’t get a pass for weekends and evenings.
For case studies on social care, see:
Foster customer loyalty with social media
Does your product have a high price point? Do your customers buy infrequently? Car dealerships, for example, sell a high-priced product that customers only need every few years. If you don’t see your customers often, you can use social media to stay in front of them even when they’re not shopping for your product.
The strategy here is to solidify relationships with your customers before your competitors do. You can quantify what customer retention is worth to you by looking at your sales trends. Do you typically sell to a customer once, or more than once? Are those repeat purchases happening as often as they should be, given the lifecycle of your product? If you answered “just once” and “no,” then there’s an upside to customer retention.
Here’s what you need to know to devise an effective social retention strategy.
How to reach your customers. If you don’t know which social channels they use, ask them.
What content to provide. Ask your frontline, customer-facing team members to compile a list of questions and topics they here most often from customers. Your content can be a mix of original and curated content, but all of it should complement your product or service and solve problems for your customers.
What brand voice to use. Consistency in brand voice is extremely important for customer retention programs. Consistency is a form of repetition and repetition helps people remember things.
What value you can add. Your customers will need a reason to follow you on social media. Often, it’s not enough to provide helpful content — particularly if you are in a boring industry. Consider designing some tasteful sales incentives that reward people for following you and encourage a faster repeat purchase.
How you will measure results. You can’t measure results unless you start with a clear understanding of normal customer behavior. Benchmark that first and then you can start to answer the important questions, like: Do social media followers buy more often? Or, do they spend more?
Generate leads with social media
It’s been well-documented that B2B and B2C companies alike have found success in social media lead generation. And still, the topic remains enough of a mystery that people devour social media lead generation success stories. If you want to be the next success story, first ask these questions to decide if social lead gen is even appropriate for your business.
Can you diagram the actions your target customer takes to define a need and then research and buy your product? To be successful in social media lead gen, you need to know how to provide information that sways their decision-making.
Do you have something of value to offer in exchange for a prospect’s contact information? Once you woo your target’s attention on social, do you have a strategy for moving that person from the “unknown follower” bucket to the “active lead” bucket?Common strategies include free demos, white paper downloads and free consultations. Whatever method you choose should be genuine and should resonate with your prospect. Do not say that you are giving away “free consultations” when you are actually giving away “free sales pitches.”
Once you’re sure social lead gen is right for you, follow these tips for success:
Write and socialize a social media policy. Make sure your employees know what’s appropriate and what’s not when representing the company and themselves online. This is a good time to restate your business goals and explain how using social media supports them.
Define a system for identifying and reaching out to prospects. Lead generation programs, online and offline, fail when they don’t make contact with the decision maker.
Help others before you help yourself. Provide information that interests your prospects. Put the selling on the backburner. If you seek engagement, the leads will follow.
Pick your social media channels wisely. You do not have to be in all social channels — you only need to be active on the channels your customers use. It’s better to have a couple of active channels than a dozen channels you cannot support.
Deploy employees as brand ambassadors. If you are producing content at the corporate level, enlist the help of your employees to circulate that content.
Get professional help with your lead gen landing pages. You work hard to get your social followers to your lead gen pages. Make sure those pages are effective by enlisting the help of a conversion optimization specialist.
Generate sales with social media
Many of the tenets that apply to social media lead gen also apply to social media selling for ecommerce sites. Of course, you have to choose the right channels and say the right things. And you still have to prioritize engagement over sales. But you can also make things more fun with special offers designed just for your social followers.
Plus, ecommerce retailers generally have the advantage of clearer ROI metrics. There’s no arguing with sales, after all. Before you jump in, though, take a moment to research your competitors. How are they presenting themselves in social media? Are they missing any opportunities? How are they balancing editorial information with sales information? Now look at your own brand and what you know about driving your customers to buy on your website. Keys to leveraging social media for your own ecommerce sales include:
Treat social as two-way communication. Go beyond posting links to your sale pages. Instead, strive for engagement and fostering relationships. When followers reach out to you, make sure someone has the tools, expertise and authority to respond quickly and professionally.
Track social media referrals and transactions. You will probably see one channel outperforming others; that data tells you how to prioritize resources. Try dabbling in ads on the strongest platform to see if you can get more of those customers.
Understand social’s place in the purchase process. Review assisted conversions reports in your analytics software. Social may be contributing to your sales, even if it doesn’t show up as the final click before the sale.
Align social with other promotions. Make sure your social media manager works closely with others in your organization who manage online and offline promotions.
Tell stories. Find ways to encourage customers to share their experiences with your product. Social is the perfect medium for real customer stories!
How does your business use social media? Share your successes with a comment!