Within the corporate environment, social media is quickly becoming the next required level of marketing within an organization. In fact, it's graduated from a novel addition to any PR campaign, to its own functional department. Gaining new and retaining old customers, sharing your products and services to a broader audience, and giving your customers a voice are just a few of the many benefits that using social media can bring to your business.
In the U.S. alone, more than two-thirds of all adults who are active online are using social media. Consider that fact, and then the fact that, amazingly enough, there are still 57 percent of businesses out there, for one reason or another, that don't understand the impact that social media can have on their business.
And once social media does become its own functional department in an organization, it's an element that cannot only function on its own, but support and operate within other core business units that are already established within any given organization. Whomever is tasked with leading social media efforts within an organization should work within the basic business framework already established:
The lifeblood of any company relies on two areas: marketing and PR. And their activities combined on a monthly basis keep any organization moving forward. Their mission is normally tied to content creation, delivery, and promotion. Social media is key here, as it's normally utilized as another marketing channel to accompany any campaign that marketing and PR promote. Social media could be used on a simple level by just pushing out messaging across social channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. Organizations that consider larger promotions might choose to do something around a custom Facebook tab with some sort of social engagement built in to the experience. This allows a brand to promote their content, invite viral sharing, and push content to current and new prospects within and outside the social media space.
It's always important to remember that your own customers are your best salespeople. And when considering retention, you not only want to keep your current customers wanting more, but also give them opportunities to share your content on and offline. Social media is the perfect ecosystem for educating users. And depending on your brand, this can happen in a variety of ways, using social channels such as a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or a YouTube channel.
Delivering content in a retention model should focus on engaging current users and exciting them about the brand. This offers them the opportunity to talk about your brand, and promote it within their social circles. One way you could package this type of content delivery could be through video. A number of brands have created Livestream channels that allow them to continuously educate, promote, and flash their brand to their user base by utilizing live video. Another tactic might be creating a secondary blog, outside of your corporate blog, that focuses on some aspect of your brand. Numerous organizations use the fast-growing social blogging platform, Tumblr. If you give the blog a personality and a different voice, you can use that to broadcast content to your users and gain brand loyalty points.
In today's landscape, customer service is more important than ever. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and various other social neighborhoods can level the playing field, enabling businesses of all sizes to interact directly with customers like never before. The voice of the consumer has never been more powerful, or influential. It has the potential to spread virally in an instant. Over 58 percent of consumers who have tweeted about a bad experience have never received a response from the offending company. This is a stat that organizations can avoid by supporting their social media efforts with customer support/member services.
The solution seems simple, but management of a channel once something like this is launched can be a time-consuming process. But once you do finalize management efforts within, the idea of social support starts with how you respond. It's important to ensure you're prepared to respond quickly and cordially. In some cases, you may need to "kill them with kindness" in an effort to offer an experience that exceeds their expectations. If a customer has a serious issue with no quick resolution, offer a specialized email address or phone contact in order to take the conversation offline. Solving these issues in real time through a company's social channel shows dedication and transparency to an organization's customers. Just consider this: the next time a customer tweets "Is there anyone out there?" you can proudly respond with "Yes, how can we help you?"
This should be the last reason to use social media within your organization. If you believe that you can use social media as a high-level conversion channel, you need to head back to the war room and rethink your strategy. Using social media as a pure acquisition channel is where you find its least value.
Social media typically captures people's attention outside of the buying cycle, so it's used more often for brand trust, recall, and engagement. Also, social media takes place on platforms that are not your own and within places where you have little control. It's far less a science within social media as compared to search, display, or other forms of direct marketing, where otherwise you have complete control over context and execution.
When it comes down to tracking and measuring the impact of social media on sales, it's still difficult to nail down 100 percent, as social media has a contributing role to play in consumer likelihood of purchasing from you, so there's less opportunity to determine acquisition metrics as well.
Although social media is strongest in areas of brand awareness, nurturing loyalty, increasing customer retention, and general brand recall, rather than powering acquisitions; there are still some tactics you can employ to better a result.
Social media can be integrated into acquisition programs where it's a stage-by-stage approach, to funnel people through a point of conversion. These conversions will find more success when focusing more on a product, rather than the brand as a whole. Some ways to do this might be through some tactics like opening up a shop tab on Facebook or distributing through other social channels where you can push individual products and your brand at the same time. Other tactics might include integrating a conversion form on your Facebook page, or integrating social media into direct email campaigns.
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Nick Cifuentes is the global social media director at Ancestry.com, the world's largest online resource for family history, with 2 million paying subscribers as of July 2012. An industry veteran, Nick has worked in digital media and marketing since 2004, functioning in strategy, copywriting, analytics, search, planning, online media, and social media. He is a frequent guest writer on various industry blogs, and publishes his own blogs as well, including one focusing on digital media, and another on his side passion, ultramarathon running.
March 19, 2014