I recently viewed an article where a prominent commercial professional advised brands against diving into the social media space as sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter have yet to demonstrate their value to marketers.
To add to this there are still many who fail to recognise the importance of social media, brushing it off to be no more than a fad. However those who do not recognise the shift in user behaviour on the web may be missing many potential opportunities to connect with customers in ways not previously possible.
So what are the reasons brands should invest in social media?
1. Market Research / Product Innovation
Ever heard of Dell’s Idea Storm Community? Dell has created one of the most successful platforms to gather customer feedback and generate new ideas. The community has been so popular that Dell has implemented 317 ideas from the nearly 12,000 ideas generated. Dell’s Idea Storm is just one way to gather such research and feedback for innovation.
Is this opportunity just reserved for big brands? Not necessarily – if you have a group of Facebook, or a number of followers on Twitter this can be an ideal start to connect, gain feedback and share ideas with those who have some attachment to your brand.
2. Customer Complaints Management
Social media extends past your marketing department. Try typing “CBA customer” into Twitter Search. This will reveal many complaints about poor customer service, however CBA are taking note – “>view the turnaround in a customers experience after an irate customer posted their frustrations on the micro-blogging site. Again is this just for big brands? Reputation management is key for organisations of all sizes, particularly if you operate in a category that is regularly discussed by individuals within communities online can be very influential online. Start by identifying which sites your customers are using to discuss topics related to your organisation or industry and keep a close eye on any complaints which occur so you can act quickly.
Social media can provide significant benefits for your search marketing strategy – which is why so many SEO agencies are branching out into social media. External linking of the social kind, where content is shared across the internet onto social bookmarking sites/twitter and then re-posted onto third party blogs, contribute to inbound links (note most social bookmarking sites do not provide link juice, they act as a source to distribute and promote content to blog owners who re-publish and link back to the original source). It is believed in the future Google will value “real popularity” over artificial popularity currently gained through link submission.
4. Lead Generation
Social media is not just a channel for B2C. Lead sourcing through social media can provide organisations with;
1) A socially acceptable way to connect with professionals for mutual benefit
2) Provide signals related to buying intentions and buyer needs
LinkedIn provides an ideal forum to share expertise with potential customers who are looking for a new supplier or have a need for a product. It is however important to approach these opportunities with a considered approach depending on what the user is seeking. If they are seeking advice the hard sell may not win them over – it is usually your experience and advice which opens up new opportunities, on the other hand they may be upfront in their request for suppliers to come forward in which case go for it.
With web users spending more time on social media sites and less time on corporate websites, the social media space provides a new platform to engage with your users. Provide visitors with ways to engage with your brand in their own environment. Make content portable and easy to share through bookmarking, RSS or even with widgets. Don’t get caught into the trap of feeling that web users must visit your site to interact with your brand. Yes it is more difficult to measure but don’t dictate to your users how they must interact with your brand as there are many other alternatives they can choose from.
6. Awareness, Brand Recognition & Visitors
Twitter is one channel that has already proved its worth to many websites. Hitwise in the UK found 1 in 5 visits to entertainment sites in February were from Twitter. Twitter is also said to be driving 7% of total traffic to blogs (my blog alone obtains 15% of its visitors from Twitter). Its viral effect results in useful content to be distributed across the web. Does this mean you should start posting links to all your products onto Twitter? Unlikely – if you can deliver users with some compelling / insightful information on social networks like Twitter or social bookmarking sites it can assist you to reach a segment of your audience. Through providing valuable content you can also position your brand as an expert or specialist in a given niche. This may not result in immediate sales but can move you into the decision set for future purchase decisions.
Yes it is time consuming but so is SEO
Yes it is not yet easily measurable as standard measures and tools are not as mature as we want them to be – but neither is offline activities
Yes there are not as many case study/best practice examples to follow – but here lies the opportunity.
If you have any additional reasons for marketers to move into the social media space please share them below.