Throughout each day I get many questions surrounding why people and businesses should be using social media. Mostly these questions come from family and friends who have either opted to not participate in things like Facebook and Twitter or they do and just don’t get what the big deal is. My response generally goes something like this, “As an individual social networks like Facebook and Twitter are great ways to stay connected to old and new friends. You can share pictures, give updates on exciting news in your life and organize reunions of all sorts. In addition these networks can be an amazing tool for finding people who share similar interests, get answer to questions your “in person” friends don’t know. The uses for social networks are really endless” But for me there is so much more to these social networks than simply socializing. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways enterprises can be using social networks in their day to day business. Here are what I consider the top ten ways enterprises are using social media.
1- Customer Service
During the 2011 Social Media Strategies Summit – San Francisco, the idea of using social platforms like Twitter and Facebook as a customer service tool was hot. Zappos, Boingo and Dunkin’ Donuts all spent time discussing how they have successfully implemented social media into their customer service strategies and all have had great success. Being able to respond to complaints in real time and in front of the world is powerful. But be ware, if you don’t have a strong plan set in place it could work against you.
2- Build Brand Loyalty
All brands desire to build brand loyalty. A customer making one purchase is a good thing but not enough to bring your brand true success. The goal should always to be create an ongoing relationship with your consumers so they purchase, purchase again and tell everyone they know why they should also be making their purchases from you. Creating this type of relationship can be difficult if your only way of connecting with consumers is when they walk through your doors or visit your website. However, social platforms create unique opportunities to build brand loyalty on a daily basis. Running contests, rewarding consumers and implementing their suggestions are just a few ways to do this. The ways in which enterprises can build brand loyalty through social networking sites is virtually endless.
3- Launch New Products/Services
Enterprises are constantly working on improving products and services and fulfilling the needs of their consumers by inventing new products and providing new types of service. It can become quite costly to market all of this. But, with the use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogs enterprises can launch new products and services with a much reduced marketing price tag.
One of my favorite presentations of the 2011 Social Media Strategies Summit was by Ronnie Ramos the Managing Director for Digital Communications at the NCAA. Ramos spent a majority of his presentation discussing the change in media since the rise of social networks. Ramos says of social media, “It has accelerated a fundamental shift in the way we communicate…” and he goes on to tell us “We no longer search for the news, The news finds us” Now brands have control of news about them. Enterprises can literally create their own news by posting on an enterprise blog, pushing out a press release or simply publishing a Facebook comment or sending out a tweet. To learn more about building an enterprise blog check out the 2011 Blogging Strategies Summit
5- Build a Community
There are so many benefits that can arise from building a community for your enterprise. Once the community has been built, and cultivated, enterprises can engage with them on a multitude of levels. Communities can help enterprises gauge success, address problems, promote new products and service, listen and respond. Successful communities should be the goal of every social media marketing campaign.
6- Focus Groups
With a strong online community enterprises can form focus groups to test out new ideas. Focus groups have been used for many years as a way to test out new ideas before spending enormous amounts of money launching. Focus group are a fantastic way to conduct valuable research to conclude what people’s reactions will be to your new idea. These groups can also be very expensive and time consuming to create. But, with strong online communities enterprises can use focus groups more often and with a higher rate of success. Has your organization used an online community as a focus group?
All too often people and businesses spend a majority of their time speaking. Whether sending out a tweet, posting an update on Facebook, blogging or producing a YouTube video a majority of energy is exerted to share the enterprises messages. Not long ago pushing out the brands messages was really the only option. But, with social networks, we can now listen to consumers. Those enterprises who have taken advantage of the listening opportunities social produces inevitably have a much stronger social media marketing foundation.
If you’re listening it’s essential you respond when you hear something relevant. This could be a tweet from an unsatisfied customer, an idea from a brand loyalist or simply a question from a potential consumer. There’s nothing worse than ignoring your community.
9- Locate and Support Brand Evangelists
There are more individuals than ever who consider themselves brand evangelists. These people “Like” their favorite brands Facebook Pages, RT their Tweets and leave comments on blogs. Cultivating, thanking and involving these brand evangelists is one of the best ways to grow any brands presence, on and off line.
If you haven’t caught the theme, social media is all about communicating. Whether listening, answering, responding or sharing if your enterprise isn’t using social media as a way to communicate its time to re-evaluate your strategy.