I remember a time when Facebook, one of the early pioneers of social media, was exclusive to college students. But it didn’t take long for the company to realize its global influence and addictive pull. The students-only policy soon changed to include everyone: small and large businesses, community groups, your parents (gasp!) and even advertisers.
As social media sites developed, more and more businesses jumped on board and a whole new world of customer service was created. For the first time since the suggestion box, people can now vent their frustrations and laud their experiences with a service in a public forum. If there’s a comments section, it’s social. This includes Twitter, reddit, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon, Google+ and a bevy of other sites.
In many ways, social media has paved the way for powerful customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Marketers can now be guided by online discussions to position their messaging and create content, and they can also gain a better understanding of their audience and buyer personas through comments and posts.
Social media definitely has its place in marketing and should not be dismissed as a passing trend. What follows are tips to help marketers strengthen their social CRM and produce more effective communications using social media as a guide.
Social media has all the benefits of poll tests, only it’s more fun
When potato chip companies began selling off-the-wall flavors like Caesar salad and waffles and chicken, the marketer in me wondered how much research was done before the ideas were given the green light. Believe it or not, social media is an excellent tool for gauging the popularity of a would-be product or would-be messaging by simply asking users to engage in the discussion. For example: “‘Like’ the best potato chip flavor or submit your own!” Just don’t be surprised if people start suggesting toothpaste- and orange juice-flavored chips. It comes with the territory.
This kind of preliminary research via social media can help a campaign struggling to define itself to more clearly establish goals and pin down the target audience’s needs. But it also shows how social CRM efforts can be fun and engaging. It’s like inviting a sample set of your customers to your next marketing kickoff or brainstorming session. While it might seem unlikely that anyone would want to discuss salad-flavored junk food, you’d be surprised at the level of engagement that can be achieved when social media is used the right way.
Social media is interactive, so encourage engagement
Marketers can easily turn promotion of a product into a fun contest for their customers using social media. When Consumers Energy, a public utility in Michigan, wanted to increase awareness about its renewable energy program, Jacobs & Clevenger took the challenge to social media with the greenscenes viral video contest for local high schools. By asking participants to upload and share their videos about renewable energy on social media sites, Consumers Energy was able to broaden the program’s exposure and get people talking about clean energy. And the bonus? The winner of the contest won $5,000.
Social CRM is all about nurturing your customer relationships and getting them to interact with your brand. Luckily, opportunities for engagement on social media abound. Users can do much more than they could 10 years ago to customize their profiles and add dimension to their posts.
Social media provides insights into buyer behavior, habits and values
People are easier to engage online. A casual scroll through your news feed will reveal your friends’ feelings about everything from cilantro (there’s actually a movement against cilantro on Facebook…my membership is pending) to politics. Often, people volunteer all kinds of information about themselves. If your brand has a sizable following on social media, take the time to check out the members of the group, and definitely pay attention when a member posts a comment or asks a question on your brand’s social media site.
Discussions on social media can include hundreds of comments, depending on the topic, and can reveal a wealth of information about your customers, including what they buy and eat, their favorite sports team and their go-to brand for just about anything. More and more I’m seeing discussions on social media asking fellow users to recommend the best contractor, real estate agent, etc. Marketers can follow suit by asking users for direct feedback, which can significantly strengthen their social CRM.
Social media is more than just catching up with old friends and faraway family members. To learn more about how social media content can be translated into more effective social CRM, check out our ebook, “Transforming B2B social media into social CRM.”
Topics: Social CRM