“So you’re interested in marketing?” was the response I got the other day when I told a colleague that I was interested in how businesses use social media.
My answer: an emphatic “NO.”
What I meant was, “I’m not JUST interested in marketing.” When 67% of B2C and 41% of B2B companies have reported acquiring a customer through Facebook (source), it’s hard to ignore its importance to marketing efforts. However, as Terri Maxwell laid out in her article, “Social Media is More than Just Marketing,” I believe that social media encompasses much more than just reaching out to new customers. All too often, I see this important channel being ignored by companies, or worse, abandoned after a few feeble attempts at engaging with customers.
If social media doesn’t just market your company, what does it do?
- Extends your brand
- Generates organic traffic to your website
- Provides a feedback and support channel
- Establishes credibility in your industry
- Acts as a touchpoint in a customer’s experience with your company
Practically said, your customers expect that:
- The way you talk on Twitter and Facebook is the way you talk on your website or in your call center
- You will respond to them when they have something to say to you on social media
- You are active in producing content on social media channels and engaging with other industry professionals
- You reward them for connecting with them on social media
It’s not enough to just design a website for your company anymore. You have to conscientiously design a full digital experience, which includes social media channels. How exactly do you design for social channels?
- Adjust messages for the channel-specific needs. For example, learn how to say the same message in 140 characters on Twitter.
- Make your company findable, discoverable, and recognizable on social networks. For example, personalize your LinkedIn url to be “company/yourcompanyname.”
- Real-time channels require real-time responses. Respond to your customers on social channels promptly.
- Don’t be scared of people’s public criticism on social media channels. Treat support requests on social channels as opportunities to improve your company’s image and relationship to customers. You can read more about this paradox of service recovery here.
- Ask, just don’t tell. If a customer has connected with you on a social channel, they are ready to interact with you. Engage them with conversational questions. For example, use a poll on Facebook to help understand how they like your new line of products.
- Learn from others: Jakob Nielsen has already conducted research about what users expect from companies’ social media efforts. Read about it here.
A full social media strategy is not for the faint of heart. Start simply and start by dipping your toes in several different social networks. Then, get a tool that wil help you quantify and understand your social media efforts like the ones listed here. Measure, measure, measure. Then optimize: how often you post, the nature of your posts (marketing blasts, questions, sharing of others’ content), and how you integrate social and your website. That’s what data-driven design is all about.