Social media and networks have been part of many internet users’s life for the last six to seven years, with services popping up and falling down at an astonishing pace. And, yet, social media marketing is still a very “hot” topic.
From forums to blogs: online conversations are happening since years and the success of channels such as Facebook and Twitter has created an online world that’s loaded with buzz, communication, collaboration, etc. There is nevertheless a tendency to social media marketing hype but with new tools and possibilities being launched and talked about all the time, it sometimes is hard to focus on what matters. All the evolutions, that we call “social” today, are not new, but it seems that social media marketing starts to be thought of and approached in a more mature way. Note the word “starts”.
In reality, for many marketers, social media marketing is often still a confusing and overwhelming topic. The good news: social media marketing does not have to be overpowering If you don’t focus on the channels and the trends too much but look at your business goals and what your customers want, developing a social media marketing strategy is easier than you think. Once the foundations are laid, the objectives are set, the integrations are done and the plan is in place, the most important part, that is often overlooked, is over. Obviously social media marketing requires resources, effort and time, but if you ask the right questions and provide the right answers ROI is a logical next step.
To be successful in social media marketing, you need to:
- Have an integrated, holistic and cross-channel vision
- Be, work and think customer-centric
- Understand that people decide where and how they get in touch with you
- See that the sales process is shifting from ‘selling’ to ‘buying’
- Have a strategy, goals and a plan
- Make a business case to have the necessary resources (it’s not a free lunch)
- Understand that social media marketing strengthens other forms of marketing
- Look at marketing as a dialogue
- Drop the broadcasting mentality
- Know that all social media and networks are different and have a different way of interaction: focus on those that work and matter for your business and customers
- See “users”, “followers”, “subscribers” and “consumers” as people
- See everyone as a customer and vendor: your employees included
- Listen, measure, monitor and act
- Inject what you hear by listening in your overall business strategy (data and Social CRM)
- Define the right metrics and Key Performance Indicators to measure success
- Prepare your employees
- Understand the role that social media can play in all parts of the customer life cycle
- Speak the language your customers speak
- Think in terms of value, relationships and conversations but certainly also ROI and bottom-line
- Be committed
- Reach out to your customers
- Move from connections to relationships to business
- Move beyond the traditional influence sphere
- Be human: be you and focus on the people in your company
- Provide value
- Be data-driven
Social media marketing and engagement marketing aim to engage people. They encourage them to participate in the evolution of a brand.
From conversations to sales: listen!
Customer engagement and conversations are what social media marketing is about. Rather than looking at people as passive receivers and “consumers” of messages, modern marketers understand that customers should be actively involved in the production and co-creation of marketing programs.
Engagement marketing attempts to connect more strongly people with brands by “engaging” them in a dialogue and two-way, cooperative interaction. However, you have to measure it and have business goals.
People online now have shorter attention spans, they’re bombarded with information, and they have a wide range of channels to inform themselves and communicate. Many aspects of the buying process have moved online.
Thus so should you. Be there where your (future) customers are, track their digital footprints and be ready when they give you a “sign” that they are ready to buy or…ready to stop doing business with you.
They will not tell it directly, you will have to listen and measure. Track their online behavior and communicate, build relationships and offer the right value at the right moment, depending on the signals you get.
In social media marketing, value often means relevant content, tailor-made promotions, useful information and a “real” relationship. And of course it also means value for your business: the bottom-line.
By offering value, you will get value back. Satisfied customers and so-called ‘fans’ or ‘followers’ are the strongest sales force you have.
People, trust and relationships in social media marketing
Businesses should think about their (future) customers as people. Not as email addresses, contacts sitting in a customer relationship management tool, passive consumers of advertising messages, etc.
They should strive to get closer to people and eventually become part of their personal networks as a reliable and trustworthy partner.
It will result in more loyal customers and a positive impact on the bottom-line.
This does not happen overnight, and it does require some serious customer-centric thinking and customer engagement.
For many businesses, it even requires a process of change management and of corporate culture. Social media marketing needs customer-centricity, and customer-centricity requires a corporate attitude and organization where all processes revolve around the customer. Integration of platforms and marketing efforts and channels, as well as breaking down corporate walls, is key for a social and customer-centric business.
Becoming a trustworthy partner and focusing on conversations and customer satisfaction and engagement is important to optimize the relationships with your existing customers. However, it is also key in acquiring new customers.
However, let’s not dream: a brand or business will not easily become part of the personal network of someone. In fact, it’s more the other way around: people are expanding their personal networks via social media. When they connect with you, you gain their trust. Remember to look at your employees, press contacts, suppliers and partners as people.
Create the necessary social media presences to enable all these people to connect with you and enable yourself to connect with them!
Don’t look at the channels or the media themselves (yet); they are merely ways to engage your customers, connect, communicate and offer and receive value.
Content and channels = stories, voices, ears and eyes
In order to communicate with people you need a voice, ears and eyes. You also need something to talk about: a story, although, in fact, people tell the story. In marketing, we call them media and content.
Content and context are key in social media marketing. Not the content as such but the perceived value of it. When content is perceived as valuable within the right context, it gets shared. It becomes a story. It is the start of word-of-mouth.
Media are also key in social media marketing. Again, not the media or channels as such (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.), but how they can become voices to talk to people and ears to listen to people in a cross-channel way.
When you bring people in the centre of marketing, all you need are stories, voices, ears, eyes and a good sense of business and metrics.
In social media marketing your ears and eyes are also monitoring and tracking tools: to read and see the signals of your (potential) customer and to measure if the conversations and interactions you have are valuable, both for him and your business.
Finally, remember this: don’t only focus on the content and value you offer but emphasize and highlight the content and value people around you generate.
Social media (marketing) hubs and conversation rooms
There are fewer face-to-face interactions between sales people and prospects/customers.
Customers don’t need you: they can move through much of the buying cycle online, from gathering information and validating you as a vendor through recommendations.
The sales conversations are moving from restaurants and meeting rooms to online conversation rooms.
Your social media and online presences (blogs, Facebook pages, web site, etc.) are conversation rooms. The more you focus on broadcasting about you and your brand, the fewer people will enter.
Some of these rooms can be small. Some can be larger and be conversation spaces, where the whole online world can participate. Your blogs are like hubs, and social media marketing is really very much a hub and spoke model with your social presences turning around blogs, content, community platforms and sometimes even Facebook pages. The real hub though is the customer or prospect and his network.
Dare to let go of your brand more. Involve others, offer more value and content as a brand but offer less brand-related content.
You will also have to go to other conversation rooms: other blogs, other communities. Contribute, guest blog, provide advice but don’t sell directly or right-away (there are exceptions). Become a trusted partner, pre-sell.
You cannot have thousands of social media conversation rooms. Pick a few: one or two blogs, a Facebook page, etc. Make them your social media hubs and connect all your other social media presences with that hub.
But most of all: focus on the people in all the conversation spaces and what they say. Listen, anticipate, participate and act.
Humanize your brand and communication. Deserve value by providing it. And turn it into sales, loyalty and cost reductions the proper way.