For the past few years we have seen the steady growth of companies jumping on the social wagon. From creating Facebook and Twitter accounts that just pump out company information and promotions to campaigns allowing customers to suggest new product and service offerings and rewarding the fans who share stories and videos on the social networks.
Some organizations do nothing but post one or two updates per month while others have jumped into the driver’s seat, leading the pack with customer service representatives answering tweets 24/7 and customers getting replies back to a Foursquare check-in or cross-pollinating by letting Facebook fans know they will find clues on Twitter that end up having them “pin” something using the new social darling, Pinterest for a chance to win big prizes.
In 2011 we saw the adoption of social media by just about every business sector, from hotels, restaurants, and car dealers, to clothing stores, heating and air conditioning contractors, and even funeral homes. If a business serves people, then they were probably creating Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (now Google My Business) accounts and then trying to build and engage a community. Smart businesses see social media, not as a replacement to traditional sales, marketing, or customer service, but as an extension to their overall customer experience. They see it as another avenue to be out where the consumer is, building relationships, allowing people to get to know, like, and trust them.
This meant businesses started sharing content. They shared tips, tools, and helpful content to attract the savvy smartphone-wielding consumer who was looking to connect. Towards the end of 2011, we started seeing the shift from just pumping content out to the consumer, to getting the customer to engage on and offline. Getting a consumer to participate more by loading videos of their “haul” or “pinning” items they find on a website to Pinterest which then shares to Facebook and Twitter. Well pollinated!
What many businesses still have not figured into the equation is how the consumer has moved into the marketing seat. With hundreds of social review sites like Yelp, Open Table, Trip Advisor, Oink, on top of Facebook, Twitter, and more, consumers are marketing, for or against your business on these sites. Typically the front line staff member of an organization doesn’t realize the level of service they provide will end up in a post on one of these review sites. So how do you influence your social community members to post kindly? Can you influence them at all?
Companies like Walmart engaged some of their influential customers, mommy bloggers, to write reviews of products and “influence” their communities. This third-party (kind of) recommendation of products can greatly influence a community if that community has grown to know, like, and trust the blogger. Mercedes ran contests on Twitter where they selected 3 teams of influencers to drive their car to the Super Bowl and tweet along the way building their teams of online voters in hopes of winning a new ride. The drivers became the marketers, or influencers, drawing others into the Mercedes community. Recently Samuel Gordon’s Jewelers ran a promotion using Facebook, Twitter, their website, and that omnipresent, Pinterest, to get their fans to share pictures of their jewels with their social communities.
If you have nurtured your fan base, providing them with valuable content and promotions they really like, they will be listening when you ask them to pull their friends into your circle.
So where are YOUR customers talking about you and your brand? How do you plan on influencing those influencers out there? Perhaps this should be added to your next marketing meeting. What do you think?
Do you need help getting your social business ready to serve the new social consumer? We would LOVE to help you! Connect with Gina on Twitter or join our DIYsocial Facebook Page where we post helpful tips and tools for using social media to build your business!