Smarter Marketing Blog

16 Reasons To Be Cheerful – Part 3 – Using Social Media To Build Customer Relationships

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In this post we continue our look at how marketing can help build customer relationships. Part 1 is here.

As a business owner, do you remember the good old days when marketing options only consisted of print advertising, cold-calling and exhibitions? Looking back now, we can see how limited these options were when trying to build customer relationships – not ineffective, just limited.

Then the great marketing saviour arrived on the scene – social media. Of course, we were thrilled with these shiny new tools but were flummoxed wondering how best to use them. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et al. certainly drove connectivity through the roof and brands wanted in on the act.

Businesses tried to be social (kind of) and started measuring how many ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ that they could amass. However, in the early stages, social media was not providing the sales expected – not because of the tools, but because of how they were being used by brands. Purchasing power had finally moved to the people.

As a result, it is only in recent years, I believe, that brands have started to distinguish between ‘social media’ and business social media. Nowadays, a lot of businesses are including social media in their overall marketing strategies. It appears that it has finally been accepted that social media is not a passing fad but needs to be treated differently, as a marketing activity.

Finally, brands have realised that they will never be a customer’s close friend, but they can be of relevance to them.

What we like about social media for our own business is that it affords us the same opportunities that larger organisations have for brand visibility. It also allows us to listen to what our audiences are talking about as well as trying to engage them, on their terms. Finally, it not only helps to build our visibility online but can help build awareness offline also, due to networking and increased brand recognition.

Yes, the pace of change in social media can be frightening at times. Recently, we have seen a timeline algorithm update from Instagram (similar to that of Facebook and Twitter), Snapchat 2.0 (integrating voice and video calling – without a mobile number), and Facebook is enhancing their video metrics (daily performance metrics).

The bad news is that change is constant but the good news is that the upgrades are usually better for brands to build customer relationships. A good example of social media being good for business and relevant for the customer will be the introduction of the buy button on social media sites.

Four social media marketing techniques for you to consider.

  • Use it to build your brand.

This is a long-term strategy that builds and engages with a specific audience. As mentioned in our last posting on this blog (Part 2), trust, built-up over time, leads to a brand that customers genuinely like to engage with.

  • Use it for sales and conversions.

This technique has a short term focus. It entails using platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn to identify a specific need that an individual / business may have. After connecting with them on social media a request for a meeting is initiated. Care is needed that your activity is not considered spamming and accordingly, must be based on correctly identifying a need that you can satisfy.

  • Use it as part of a multi-channel campaign.

If you are planning a short-term marketing campaign, social media can be used to create extra excitement for a large audience. You can get people’s attention with polls, competitions, hashtags, videos etc. and with a bit of luck, your video or hashtag might go viral!

  • Use bookmarking sites for reach.

Social bookmarking sites can help you to drive traffic to your site. We use Scoop.it on a daily basis which is a really good curation and distribution tool. The only downside is that these sites are not targeted per se, so they are more suitable for reach instead of sales. Here’s an oldie but goldie list of such sites from SEJ.

What’s changed for businesses trying to build relationships with customers is that they must do so using many types of platforms and strategies. As alluded to above, the pace of change is extremely fast and it is important that brands keep up to date with online developments. Sometimes it’s best to outsource this element of your business strategy.

As with all tools and techniques, there are right and wrong ways to use them. Here are four signs that you might not be using social media in the right way.

  1. You spend a lot of the time talking about your own business and its offers
  2. You have no consistency of voice across your different social media platforms
  3. Your audience isn’t growing or worse – is not engaging with you
  4. You find being on social media to be a chore so you don’t bother measuring results

When done right, social media can be a very effective element of your efforts to build customer relationships. Consider the above warning signs and change your approach if needs be.

Tips and Timesavers

Some businesses have considered it good practice to have documented policy and procedures for their social media activity, in-house. We would recommend that all businesses do so – there are many templates online that can be used.

There are also a few basic principles of social media marketing that should be adhered to:

  1. Respect your followers and don’t provide them with less than 100% quality content
  2. Give freely to others because what goes around comes around
  3. The customer isn’t always right but at least, move the discussion offline by way of customer service
  4. Paid for advertising on social media is acceptable, as it is targeted – spamming is not
  5. Building relationships with and using social media influencers is fine, if mutually agreed
  6. Review your analytics (usually free) weekly and learn from mistakes
  7. Be consistent of voice and be positive in attitude
  8. Don’t become a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Pick a platform where your audience is

Conclusion

If you decide to use social media as a tactic for building customer relationships remember that it must form part of overall business objectives. It is not a good idea to be on social media because everybody else is. Determine your customers from your marketing plan and use the channels where they are, to engage with them. In this way, they are more likely to respond to your calls-to-action.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

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