“The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years,” said Erick Qualman, notable author of Digital Library and Socialnomics. I couldn’t agree more. Social media has exploded in such a manner since it started in its simplest form in 1979 like UseNet which allowed users to communicate through a virtual newsletter (source: Brett Borders and Drew Hendriks). Perhaps the Millennials will remember ICQ in the mid-90’s?
Social media has become part of our every day lives - at home, at school and at work. In fact, a friend of mine is using social media to fiercely build her personal brand to exploit her career escalation.
For businesses, 90% of customers buy based on recommendations and referrals, as cited by Martin Bailey of WOMM. Referrals from social media has become even more important with it driving more than 31% of referral traffic (source: Forbes). The use of social media will bring returns as studies show that 85% of consumers say that they will change their buying behaviour in response to social media content (source: The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web).
We all seem to know the growing power of social media but not sure how to leverage that power. Let us examine what the real basis of social media is before we discuss how businesses can leverage it for long term success.
Social Media For Communications
Social media is a communication tool between two audiences with four main types of communication relationships:
(1) Brand to Customer
- This is traditional social media, initiated by the brand and generally owned by marketing, in which businesses use a network to publish content and try to engage their audience
(2) Brand to Employee
- The purpose is to increase productivity, transparency and collaboration
- Operations could own this to communicate with and enable employees
(3) Customer to Customer
- The main purpose is to mine public conversations across social media to provide insight into how audiences interact and behave, as well as provide information on the conversations which people and competitive brands are having about brands and products
- Brand teams may own this to determine share of voice
(4) Customer to Brand
- This communication is initiated by customers and mostly used for customer support, gathering feedback and helping with purchase activity
Getting The Best Out Of Customer Life Cycle With Social Media
As marketers, we help our brands move customers from each stage of the life cycle, from brand awareness to demand generation and onward to sales enablement, customer support and even customer advocacy. (see Figure)
a) Social Media for Brand Awareness
At this stage, companies tend to publish content just to engage customers with the aim of fostering brand name and driving product and concept recognition. Popular tools include company’s LinkedIn pages, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
Here, success is measured by the ability to engage the right audience and drive business impact. We recommend that companies, both B2B and B2C, have a strong and consistent brand message that resonates with your customers in both online and offline engagements.
b) Social Media for Demand Generation
B2B companies are now leveraging social media platforms to generate pipeline and sales. This is a trend that many social media platforms have recognized and are now offering advertising on their platforms for this purpose. Yes, businesses now have to pay to play on social media platforms.
With the need to expend, marketers now need to understand where their brand’s customers play in social media and why they use social media, in order to target and engage them effectively with sincere and inspiring content that fit their needs and preferences.
Through this, brands can talk with their customers and not at them.
Using POE (paid, owned, earned) camapigns, marketers can target buyers with offers and promotions, driving them to websites or stores. In fact, 89% of consumers conduct their research using search engines (Source: PR Newswire) which makes social media engagements so important.
c) Social Media for Sales Enablement
Once the customers have been engaged and are interested in the brand’s products or services, they need to get their questions answered or make their purchase. I am sure your sales people are trained to manage enquiries and make the sale. Some companies have used social media as a sales enablement tool where the brand communicates with its employees, informing them of latest offers, products, arm them with the latest sales tools and run sales contest. In this instance, social media is used to support sales activities like outreach, engagement or intelligence.
The goals and successes are measured by improving contributing factors like sales velocity, increased engagement, post-sales enablement, increased productivity and employee satisfaction. There are a number of tools like Google Hangouts and Reachable, designed to help with internal processes, communication and collaboration.
d) Social Media for Customer Support
Several companies like Dell, Domino’s, Best Buy, American Airlines and some universities are using social media to manage customer support, mitigate risks and attending to queries. Online communities like Zendesk, Desk.com, and AutoDesk utilize social media for customer support and customer success. The BI Intelligence report showed how companies are interacting more effectively and serving customers better with a focus on social media, and recreating themselves to be more customer centric in the process.
The goals and successes are measured by customer satisfaction, response level metrics (e.g. response rate, response time etc) and impact on other customer support functions like phone support, resolution time and overall support volume.
e) Social Media for Customer Advocacy
According to Wikipedia, Customer Advocacy is a specialized form of customer service in which companies focus on what is best for the customer. It is a change in the company’s culture that is supported by customer-focused customer service and marketing techniques.
A study by Wharton School of Business says 83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer products and services. But only 29% actually do. So if you are not getting enough business from existing customers or referrals from them, then marketers and their communications colleagues should work together using social media to amplify the brand, incentivize customers and grow the base. Research and planning are required to determine how customers amplify the brand and drive results, then improve campaigns to drive new business and from existing business. Tools like Influitive and Crowdtappers are used to build a network of advocates that a brand can incentivize and mobilize on social media to spread positive word-of-mouth, support brand initiatives and campaigns, and amplify brand message.
According to Forbes, 81% of consumers who receive a recommendation from a contact on their social media sites have purchased a product that was recommended to them. Nearly 93% of social media users have either made or received a recommendation for a product or service. So it is important to think how social media can work in your favour.
Marketers Make Social Better For Businesses
Social Media can bring great value when it is done right. Savvy marketers who will be valued by their businesses are the ones who truly understand the four communication relationships and have the abilities to leverage social media to drive customers along the brand’s life cycle. It is a win-win situation for both the marketer and the brand.
If you need help aligning your sales, marketing and communications goals and teams, then book a 30-min free consultation.
Vermilion Pinstripes Sales Marketing Communications is based in Port Macquarie, Australia and Singapore