Consumers today are evolving into a savvy breed of "Social Customers" who actively read and post product reviews online, expect prompt customer service through social media and desire a voice in the products and services they consume.
Businesses and marketing executives who interact effectively with today's Social Customers create new opportunities for themselves. Here are four ways to engage with the Social Customer:
1. Sales: How to generate sales through social channels
A sales-driven social strategy uses social media to generate new leads, and encourages users to recommend your products or services to their contacts.
This strategy should be supported by tracking facilities, so that you can verify whether your social campaign has resulted in an increase in sales.
For instance, Techsailor helped a local organisation launch a campaign on Facebook, where it raised awareness of the attractive membership benefits.
Users were encouraged to spread the message among their contacts, and those interested were connected to an online sign-up and payment portal.
This campaign saw a 50 per cent increase in month-on-month sales.
2. Marketing: With many organisations investing in social-media marketing, the challenge now is to measure performance and justify the return on investment
Make sure you know what the marketing objectives are (for example, an increase in product awareness) and define a set of key performance indicators to benchmark success (for example, the number of new users exposed to the organisation's message).
A good example of this was when we conducted a Facebook contest for a Thai tourism organisation, which wished to raise awareness of Bangkok as an ideal location for a holiday.
Members of the public were invited to create their dream one-day holiday itinerary in Bangkok, and post it on their Facebook page. Contestants could choose from categories such as things to see, things to do and things to eat.
The top 20 users who garnered the most likes from their friends were rewarded with prizes ranging from Thai memorabilia to a paid flight to Bangkok.
This marketing campaign received over 80,000 Facebook likes and garnered 18,000 contest entries in six weeks.
3. Support and service: Social channels are increasingly becoming the first resort for today's Social Customers when looking for information about a particular product or service
These include online forums, blogs and websites, and customers can gain useful information not only from the organisation, but from the community as well.
For example, we were engaged by a sporting events company to support a major cycling event by providing online customer service. Participants took to this platform for event information, such as the wet weather contingency plan, the sizes of the jerseys that were given out and the availability of medical support.
The answers came from both the sporting events company as well as the community of knowledgeable cyclists, who often acted as third party endorsers of the event.
Because of this, the company saw a 20 per cent reduction in incoming calls compared to the previous year, despite an increase in event participants.
4. Product and innovation: The best people to design the next generation of your products and services are none other than your customers
The Social Customer is typically vocal and appreciates it when his feedback is incorporated, boosting customer loyalty. This could be clearly seen when an international candy company ran a campaign to gather new product ideas from its fans.
More than 3,000 ideas were contributed over two months. The idea that garnered the most votes in the campaign was a suggestion for a new flavour, and this inspired the development of a new product.
Social-media sharing can potentially multiply one great experience into thousands or even millions of recommendations, should it go viral.
Conversely, if your customer had a bad experience, it could have similar reach too.
Leveraging on these four areas will help you manage and effectively engage with today's Social Customer.
The writer is chief business development officer (South-east Asia) of Techsailor, an online social-media specialist. It is the social-media engagement arm of To The New Group.
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