The days of just setting up a Facebook fan page, Twitter account, Pinterest page, Instagram platform or Google+ business page without engaging with your consumers are over. Not only do consumers want more, they expect more. The first thing you need to do as a start-up business (or any business just starting up a social media initiative) is replace your power-point (or prezi) “Building our Customer Relationship” slide with “Our Consumers, Our Community” slide.
Success is based on sales, and if you have a product, you can’t rely on price anymore to win over customers – you have to create community and identify the influencers. If you’ve immediately thrown up your hands exclaiming “we’re a service based business” – this still applies because selling the intangible is just as important as the widget. Still not convinced social media is worth the effort? See the numbers.
Making a difference and being socially responsible is something I’ll assume you have keyed into already so let’s focus on building your consumer community through social media. Ehem, if your business isn’t based on a commitment to making positive change – or serving a higher cause – then bookmark this blog and go read Alden Mill’s book, Be Unstoppable so you can find your “why.” It’s worth the read and you’ll renew your drive to succeed.
Now, which social media channel is the best for you? I don’t know, that’s for you to figure out, but hop into the social stream (definitely look at the biggest first: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Linked In, and Google+) and splash about a bit. You’ll see fairly quickly what works best for you. Remember:
- Use the umbrella: Whether you message daily, every other day, or weekly, every message is at the top of your umbrella and each channel carries that message to the point giving you a thought or idea you really can twirl into action.
- Who’s biting? If you find the response is coming from one channel more than another, tread a little deeper into conversation in the area you receive a reaction. Don’t drop all other channels but figure out a way to use those channels to drive people to deeper waters of communication. For example, a quick tweet with a link to Facebook sparks an idea and gives an opportunity to delve deeper when they like and respond. A video or photo on Instagram attracts someone to your LinkedIn page where they can follow and learn more.
- Give your community something to nibble on: When you see more activity, acknowledge and reward it. Remember to answer when someone posts a question. “Favorite” a tweet when you see something written about your company, and always provide customer support and a response when you receive comments questioning your product or service. Welcome feedback and share ideas, this will attract others to provide constructive conversation.
The more you can provide thoughtful dialogue the more personal the connection grows, and this will attract more people to engage. When people engage you build community. When you build community, you make a difference – within the community in which you serve, your corporate culture, and at the bottom line of your business. Be willing to take risks but also question your content before you press “update.” The success of your business depends on it and it’s imperative when building a healthy, longstanding relationship with your customer.
According to a study released by J.D. Power and Associates, “Among highly-satisfied consumers (satisfaction scores of 951 and higher on a 1,000-point scale), 87 percent indicate that the online social interaction with the company “positively impacted” their likelihood to purchase from that company.” Something to think about.
Next up, blogging. Is it worth it? We’ll discuss in the next blog but I leave you with some food for thought.
Note: J.D. Power and Associates released a study that measured consumers experience in engaging with companies via social media. It included more than 100 US brands from various industries. View the report here.