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A quick guide to 5 social media platforms

Linda Ireland
A quick guide to 5 social media platforms Linda Ireland

As experienced online marketers see the benefits of using social media to raise awareness of their brands, gain share of voice, and generate leads, they're expanding the role of tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare to also strengthen customer experiences -- and drive profits as a result.


The stronger your customer's experience with your brand, the more they will reward you in terms of repeat business and referrals down the road. In researching customer experience and how it relates to business results, I found that organizations that have a well-understood definition of customer experience are twice as likely to beat their profit targets as those who do not. That's why it makes sense to take the next step in using social media platforms to help strengthen your customer's experience.


Here are five of the most commonly used social media platforms, and what you can do as a marketer to improve the customer experience through each tool:


Facebook
Since they've already "liked" your company, you've probably already solved a need for your Facebook fans. The next step is to use Facebook to create a stronger connection or anticipate their next needs by strengthening the customer experience after the sale -- or between sales. Consider VIP access in the form of exclusive offers (25 percent of Facebook users "like" brands because they want coupons or deals, according to research by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate). VIP status can also take shape as something your customers can't receive anywhere else, such as exclusive "behind-the-scenes" access to your products or company. Or consider offering new product and company news and offers first -- or exclusively -- on Facebook. Keep in mind the customers who "like" you on Facebook are among your biggest fans, so be willing to go the extra mile.


Twitter
Think about your customer's experience on Twitter and whether it's similar to what they're experiencing offline. Make sure whatever information is tweeted is in line with your brand -- and that the interactions you have with customers on Twitter feel consistent, too.


We can all learn a thing or two from Domino's, Toyota, and other high-profile social media flare-ups: Customers using Twitter assume you're listening -- and expect a direct response within 24 hours or less. If you haven't already, set up a "listening station" to ensure you catch issues that can spiral into full-blown flare-ups online. Monitor what customers -- and potential customers -- are saying on Twitter with Tweetdeck or other similar tools. And be sure to meet -- and exceed -- customer expectations on speed by making sure you're staffing appropriately. Twitter is on 24/7 -- are you monitoring and responding in real time? It's what your customers expect.


YouTube
Consumers who use YouTube are likely not in the middle of choosing, buying, or putting a product or service to work. You're likely reaching them either early in the experience as they are looking for options, or late in the experience as their needs are evolving. When creating video content, be sure to keep this in mind.


YouTube is the second largest search engine, and has more than 2 billion views per day. Why? The most common reasons are for help (think how-to videos) and entertainment. And keep in mind that your YouTube videos may be popping up on other people's blogs too. With that in mind, how does your video content meet your existing and potential customers' needs? Do they clearly show what your company provides and what you're all about? Do your videos provide fast answers? And do they include contact information? These may sound simple, but are especially important considering in most cases, people viewing your videos found you by searching YouTube -- not your website.


Foursquare
While Foursquare can serve as one of your marketing tools, it caters to a niche audience, and it's not for every brand. But it's an audience that's typically highly engaged and connected online. So, it pays to exceed their expectations. Think about what would really strengthen your Foursquare customers' affinity for the brand, and encourage them to share with other potential customers.


Customers typically use Foursquare to get the coveted "mayor" status, as well as score good deals. So, consider an exclusive and phenomenal offer for your mayor, who's already a big fan and customer. Go above and beyond for these "super customers" to reap the full benefits of the tool.


LinkedIn
In many B2B industries such as financial services, manufacturing, and energy, LinkedIn is the de facto social media tool of choice. B2B customers or clients are looking to LinkedIn as a professional business tool they can use to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones. They're predominantly looking for three things, which you can usually find in their profiles: industry experts, references, and consultants or vendors.


If you're a B2B company, LinkedIn is a great way to identify, connect with, and build stronger relationships with these potential customers by interacting with them through LinkedIn Groups and providing responses to the questions they post on LinkedIn Answers. The key is to make sure you're serving as a helpful resource. If you do, the long-term rewards can be substantial.


A final word: Don't worry too much about your competitors. They may be using Foursquare or YouTube, but it doesn't mean you should too. Zero in on tools and platforms that strengthen your existing customer's experiences with your brand to make the most of your online marketing program -- and drive business results.


Linda Ireland is an author as well as a partner at Aveus.


On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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