Much of the business of “doing business” these days is dependent on building solid relationships based on trust. The openness that the Internet brought to the business and social scenes over 15 years ago; tempered by perceptions of scammy behaviour and fly by night operators has made that element of trust critically important but ever harder to win at every level of business.
Every week, in my face to face networking activities with Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, 4Networking or Carlisle’s Know Your Neighbours group; I still encounter business owners who don’t “get” Social Media as a business tool. Social media used appropriately is a subtle but effective tool for growing the relationships that lead to business with people you might never meet face to face. Age really isn’t a barrier! So if you don’t “get” it yet this for you!
4 Big Reasons Social Can Grow Your Business!
There are many reasons; but they all boil down to 3 really great big hairy chested reasons and a kind of overgrown Yeti of a reason for getting involved. They boil down to;
- Nurturing relationships and building trust
- Picking up on customer feedback
- Traffic generation
- Brand exposure
So let’s look at these assertions in a bit more detail.
Social Media Builds Relationships and Reinforces Trust
An old marketing adage “Be where your customers are”… is the simplest reason for being involved with social media; as a business person. Your customers, clients and suppliers are already there! On some social media sites they are on there for a heck of a long time!
From the spottiest youth SnapChatting their adolescent encounters; the silver surfer grappling with Faceache (FB) to stay in touch with far flung family; through to the highly savvy recruitment pro; checking through Linked In profiles, Twitter and Facebook timelines, to weigh up the new applicant for their top flight client’s prestigious new post – everyone is discovering value in the connectedness of social media.
For marketing purposes and your business’ survival, it is critical to understand that each of your target audiences has a likely pattern of presence in those channels… and if you can be there, with something of value or interest and engage their attention over a period of time, you will become that “top of mind” brand that is more likely to get the enquiry. You will have already won a degree of trust. To retain that trust, it is important not to spam your chosen medium with pure self promotion! The etiquette of social media ensures that you will quickly be blocked by the people you have now begun to irritate. You have to make yourself useful and a “persona” of value!
One of our social media clients relies on us to bring useful, informative content to their loyal followers, which is closely aligned with their personal and business values. On Twitter, we put out a mix of about 80% general info and news with about 20% being some brand info and acknowledgement of followers interactions. In Facebook on the other hand, our audience seems to respond more to a general diet of brand related imagery but gathered from users and friends around the world, rather than constant “corporate” imagery and information. This has helped them build a remarkably engaged following of customers, distributors and outdoor people; who are becoming increasingly willing to share their tips and experiences.
Where are the stats to back this up? The first independent information might at first glance seem to give the lie to what’s been said: It doesn’t!
Although the lowly position of social media trust on this chart seems to give the lie to what’s been said above; our experience is that, by being present and NOT indulging in ceaseless self promotion, your brand can earn trust. That is why it is rarely successful as a short term, quick fix to get involved in social media.
Heidi Cohen’s blog has a very detailed review of Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer study; which picks away the hype and lays bare what it really takes to develop trust with your audience… it’s well worth a read.
Feedback and Customer Service the Social Media Way
Once you have taken steps to grow a presence in your most useful social media channels an enormous benefit emerges. With diligence and a willingness to interact with your audience, you will pick up on issues and suggestions that will allow you to develop and improve your business as well as detect when clients or customers are unhappy about your work.
At a certain point last year, I switched on the computer and settled down to a morning of monitoring and posting for one of our clients, Tentipi Tents of Sweden. These guys produce a range of top end shelters for the events and adventure markets and they rely on their brand values of absolute reliability and durability to justify the high cost of manufacture and high end price for their customers. Our brief is to help with promotion of the adventure tipi range: to (mainly) English speaking audiences around the world.
On my initial scan of posts and mentions, I noticed a post to the timeline from an English sounding Facebook fan. This lady was not happy!! She had purchased one of our top of the range single pole tipis and on her first outing to Norfolk, as she and her partner were putting the tipi up (in perfectly benevolent conditions), the central pole simply folded in half like a green stick: to her utter disgust! That killed the customer’s weekend and almost destroyed her faith in our brand!
I saw the post at about half past 9 in the morning. Tony Stephenson the distributor for the UK knew within minutes. I was able to get a phone number via FB messaging from the unfortunate customer. While that was going on the Swedish arm of the company was already being informed that there was a potential Quality Control problem and an unhappy customer.
The lady was contacted by phone within an hour of posting her initial grievance and by lunchtime she had received apologies from the company and 2 replacement poles were already on their way via parcel post.
Investigation revealed that somehow a defective batch of alloy had got through the QA procedures and had slipped through into manufacture. The end result was that we were able to defuse some red hot anger directed at our brand (at the point of maximum inflammation). Even more helpfully, a loophole in our QA procedures was uncovered and a whole batch of potentially faulty poles was withdrawn before the problem inconvenienced any other customers or embarrassed our very loyal retailers. For Tentipi, as a brand; which genuinely places trust and honesty at the top of its business values, an initially hostile customer was completely won over by our ability to respond at the point where she felt most let down.
Hopefully this real life case study illustrates the value of the 2 way conversation that can occur when a brand values the input of its customers and is genuinely responsive to problems and praise! Of course, if you are careless there can be a downside – as this cringeworthy article explains! “35 Examples of Social Media Fails”. Fingers crossed we never slip up like this, but switching between accounts has created a couple of near misses! http://ow.ly/yi8um
To be done well, social media marketing demands an investment of time, (and /or) money and commitment. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it is somehow “FREE”!
Again we like to back our assertions up with some external evidence. This summary of some research carried out by Marquetingquery gives a flavour of some of the psychology that’s at work here. The information about response times is particularly interesting. The long term benefits of tapping in to customers when they have the most pain and being able to solve the issue quickly can generate some amazingly positive feedback from a situation that, once upon a customer service time, may have become a long running thorn in a company’s side.
This is perhaps one of the most under rated uses of media in the toolkit! If your posting activities contain links to your own website, then there is a pretty good chance that you will develop the skills to encourage followers to click those links and engage with the heart of your online presence… your website!
The bottom line is that your online marketing efforts depend entirely on the amount and quality of the visitors (traffic) that you can attract and reroute to your website. It’s only there that you own their details for further marketing.
In most instances, you should be using social media to develop trust and then bring the visitors home to the online territory you actually control i.e. your website. This is important, because as the social media scene evolves and rules of engagement develop, you can suddenly lose an entire tribe of followers.
An interesting statistic is that Twitter accounts with something like 500 or more followers will bring in more than 5 times the number of visits to their website than those accounts with only 25 or so!
Newcomer to the social media scene, Pinterest has turned out to be one of the richest sources of buyer traffic! This has prompted longer established rivals to try and win some of that raw spending power back. At the moment there is a lot of hype and noise about easy ways of setting up ecommerce Facebook Shops. Before you get sucked in by yet another new “Hot” Shiny Toy – make sure to evaluate whether it’s best to use FB for this; or get that buyer traffic onto your own website where you are less at risk of another change of emphasis by Mr Zuckerberg’s crew!
The bottom line is that social media can generate significant targeted traffic to your website – don’t miss the opportunity!
Brand Building and Exposure
In many ways this isn’t a separate reason for using social media as a marketing tool, but a roll up of the previous 3. Brand exposure is vital to you if you want to be found by people looking for whatever it is that you supply or do!
In the social media channels such as Linked In, Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat, Picassa or the many other smaller networks, there are audiences who you can get in front of! That’s the first level at which this branch of marketing activity is important.
There is a second angle to brand exposure that mustn’t be under estimated. Search engines: Google in particular, are scanning every publicly viewable post that they can find to try and weigh up where the valuable answers to searchers’ questions might truly be found. The conversations and rants that flow through the social stream can give very clear signals about what is worthwhile and what is simply filler: put out there just to deliver presence, rather than to answer a need or a real want. If your brand isn’t getting mentioned, then you become irrelevant and soon afterwards… invisible! That means no visitors and no conversion to customer by that website you spent so much time, money and effort on. Social media is critical to building your brand authority.
But it goes even deeper than that. The backlinks that are tweeted, pinned, shared or otherwise spread around the web, that point to your website, are the major fuel for ranking well in the search engine results. If your marketplace is at all competitive, then you need all the good quality backlinks you can get. These again give the GoogleBeasts and Bingbots the confidence to raise your authority and expose your brand in search results over and above your competitors.
Social Media Delivers Customers: But it’s Indirect!
Most business owners who haven’t taken the plunge into social media yet, baulk at the thought of online effort that doesn’t produce instant results. That’s a misguided strategy. The real value of your presence in social media is to nurture relationships, drive traffic to YOUR website, surface your brand in front of the best, most targeted eyeballs and to reinforce your authority to the search engines and people who find you. Instant explosive sales as so often promoted, when a new software “Shi-Toy” is launched; are exceedingly rare! Social media marketing is a subtle beast that repays a genuine effort to give valuable shared information to your followers and eventual customers.
Hubspot are one of the really outstanding agencies that are taking Inbound Marketing to the very limits, as they are completely committed to the set of strategies that it demands. As well as delivering results for their high end clients, they have a fabulous record of providing statistics and supportive training materials for business owners large and small: their online intelligence is second to none. This chart summarises everything you have read so far.
So don’t get left in the dust. Start “getting it” NOW and join the SME social media converts who took the deep breath and jumped in.
One final word of caution, before the leap of faith you are about to take… don’t bombard your audience with “buy this” or “me, me, me” messages that will mark you out as another spammer; give your new audience compelling content that will engage their interest and if you can… be original.
Do it NOW! Take Action
What’s your take on social media marketing? We’d love to know about your experience, do please drop a comment in below. (For the “link spammers”, they are moderated so don’t bother unless there is something useful to contribute!) We love value!
And just to round off this assault on your social media sensibilities, here is the revamped version of Eric Qualman’s Socialnomics video with its updated look at some of the background stats that can no longer be ignored!
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