For any relationship to work, you have to brush up on your listening skills. We all know social media marketing is a two-way conversation — but how do you really drive engagement?
Most companies don’t.
Too many brands still apply old-world advertising strategies to this new medium — effectively converting billboard copy to website banners. But in a world where consumers create content about brands 24/7, canned messages crash. Consumers want authentic content to which they can contribute.
To cash in social media’s true value — creating engagement, loyalty and advocacy — you need to build community through genuine, consumer-generated conversation.
Social Media’s New Authority
Millennials know this best: You can’t buy brand equity anymore. Thanks to social media, your brand is constantly being co-created online — by your customers, your competitors, your prospects and the public at large.
Millennials turn to social media and online reviews for information because most of them — 84 percent, according to McCarthy Group — don’t trust advertising. Adweek reports that 93 percent rely on blogs and consumer reviews before making a purchase. Plus, they’re online a lot — an average of six hours per day — so it makes sense that opinions expressed online would have a major impact on their purchasing choices.
But Millennials aren’t the only group heavily influenced by social media. According to a Nielsen Social report, Gen-Xers, ages 35-49, spend an average of seven hours per week on social media sites.
Given these numbers, failing to generate authentic conversation about your brand on social channels puts you at a severe disadvantage. It sends the message that you don’t value your customers’ opinions, or don’t respect the power they have over the long-term success of your business.
Conversation Leads to Conversions
Joining the conversation on social provides many benefits. It helps you connect on a more human level with your audience and gives you a chance to show some personality — you’re not just a faceless brand, but a company with real employees who care about their services and customers.
Social media is also a great platform for educating prospects and the public about your brand and services. According to HubSpot, social media produces almost double the marketing leads of traditional outbound methods.
Plus the transparent nature of social media elicits candid feedback. This is valuable insight you might not otherwise receive — insight you can share with operating leadership to further improve the customer experience.
Get the Conversation Going
Many companies fail to engage adequately on social media because they lack internal resources. The following Online Reputation Management (ORM) strategies can help by automating much of the legwork, making it easier to initiate a successful two-way conversation.
Without insight into what’s being said, it’s impossible to join the conversation. An ORM platform pulls in reviews and social comments across the web into a single dashboard, where you can review and respond efficiently. Alerts that notify you when a negative review comes in enable you to respond in near real time, solving issues that might otherwise generate additional negative comments.
Gartner, a leading analyst firm, found that failure to respond to customer comments and complaints on social media can lead to a 15 percent increase in churn rate for existing customers. But a lack of resources can impede your team’s ability to take part, putting your brand at risk, as the conversation goes on without you.
ORM platforms provide template responses for common scenarios, so you can address the reviewer promptly with a healthy variety of appropriate, pre-approved responses. A rapid, gracious response demonstrates to the public your commitment to customer care, and that you’re doing your best to resolve customer issues.
A recent study found that 51 percent of consumers trust user-generated content (UGC) more than a company’s website. Online reviews are one of the most persuasive forms of UGC. By generating more of them through authentic conversation, you have an important opportunity to shape your brand and drive more business.
Let your customers know you want their opinions, and make it easy for them to provide them. Run surveys on social channels to solicit candid feedback. If you receive a positive review, share it and invite people to comment.
You can also add value by providing relevant retweets, shares and links from experts and other sources of authority that help your audience learn more about your category. They’ll feel like you care about their journey as a buyer and want to help them make the best possible purchasing decisions.
When you engage with your audience on social media, you demonstrate that you’re listening to customers’ concerns and sincerely care about improving their experience. This goes a long way toward building trust in your brand and confidence in your ability to meet your customers’ needs.