It has become the standard for companies of all kinds to participate in social media. For a while, social media was viewed as something primarily for teens and young professionals, but as social media has evolved, it has become evident that there are countless marketing opportunities to be harnessed all over the internet.
While this is true, the inherent nature of social media is inherently more personal. When consumers follow, "like," tag, or pin pages or products from their favorite brands, they are hoping for more than increased service of advertising and promotions. As such, your social presence is more than just an advertisement. And yet, so many executives today are still treating it as such -- and allocating budget accordingly.
In this article, we'll discuss the ways in which social media goes beyond mere advertising. So before you strut into your boss's office to make a case for an increase in social media spending, arm yourself with these valuable but often-overlooked talking points.
Customer service that increases ROI
Facebook and Twitter make companies instantly accessible to customers. They should, anyway. It's expected that if an email is sent to customer support, there might not be an immediate response. But if it's tweeted or posted to a brand Facebook page, a quick response is sought. Addressing a question or issue swiftly not only gratifies the customer, but it is also an opportunity to publicly handle a customer service issue. If it is a question, time is saved for other customers with the same question. Anyone else thinking ROI here?
An added benefit to public customer service is that it could save telephone representatives hours and company dollars by addressing thousands of customers at once. Another way to do this is to poll customers about any number of issues. This provides an immediate response that can guide your approach, rather than waiting months or more for something to play out, such as interest in a new product or service.
Ideally there are never problems. But in reality, things happen, and some people are downright hard to please. It might seem risky to open a public platform for people to jump on and say anything, knowing it isn't always praise, but if the matter is at all inflammatory, there is an excellent opportunity to show the public how gracefully and diplomatically you resolve an issue. That's free, quality PR right there, and ROI increases again!
Engagement leads to conversions and better SEO
Beyond customer service, the public social media platform presents an occasion to nurture the overall public company image, as well as the images of individuals. In addition to customer service inquiries, many posts and mentions are applause. Customers also love to be noticed by a brand they admire. Positive feedback will keep them interested in engaging.
If someone tweets at a brand that she loves their new product, a simple, "We're glad you love it!" is enough to make her want to come back at another point. "Thank you" goes a long way, too, and it's easy as pie to give a shout out to thank fans and followers.
Customers who feel appreciated will definitely revisit. Frequent visits and conversations lead to more sales. Part of this is due to the nurturing. But also, when someone engages with a brand regularly, they are more likely to be privy to new products or deals that are available, subsequently making more purchases.
More conversation also means more consumer-generated content, which will bolster search results. This is particularly helpful when the content is published by brand advocates.
Excellent branding channels
Online image is all about that -- image. And it isn't limited to a website; it's the entire web presence of a brand.
Branding projects identity to the public, consumers, clients, and vendors; thus, consistency is very important. One of the great things about the way social sites have evolved is the ability to personalize and brand pages. There are cover photos, background images, in-social apps, and promotional opportunities that translate into branding opportunities.
Excellent branding is about quality and consistency, making your advertising instantly recognizable. Across all social profiles, company-produced images should be commercial quality. These are commonly images displayed in an advertising campaign.
Images posted by fans and followers are part of the conversation and don't carry the same expectation of standards as those posted by the brand, but they still help to tell the story of the brand -- the part of the story that includes the consumer. Profile photos should not be overlooked, and they should not be blank -- ever. It should either be a professional head shot of the person related to the account, a brand-style illustration or graphic, or a brand logo.
Unlimited customer reach
Direct referrals are always an effective method of procuring new customers. With social media mentions, there is unlimited potential in the word-of-mouth method, and the rate at which it can happen is tremendous.
The old model of referral business is that one person tells six people, and each of those six tell more, and so on, which is good just by its exponential nature. Now start multiplying by however many followers each brand advocate has -- hundreds or thousands -- and we start talking about huge numbers instantly.
There is a second part to this that is the credibility that comes with this kind of advertising that cannot be reached with paid advertising. An individual does not presumably have anything personal to gain by awarding praise and recommendations of their favorite products and companies, so the opinion is typically regarded as genuine. If an ad features a testimonial, on the other hand, it is assumed to be compensated and therefore less valuable.
Social properties absolutely qualify as advertising tools, but it is considerably more than that. As mentioned, the word of mouth effect brings its own degree of credible advertising. In addition, it often acts as a megaphone for existing ads; great advertising prompts conversation and sharing.
A good example is any brand that uses a representative character of as part of a campaign. The character then takes on a life of its own online, possibly with its own social profiles. Fans engage with the character, which is another route for the brand to reach customers.
Social media also introduces the capability of interactive advertising. If a promotion is posted, it is available for immediate use, of course, but is also then on the table to open a discussion or to accept a comment or question. With advanced analytics, the popularity can be tracked and show the result of the promotional efforts.
Lisa Wehr is CEO and founder of Oneupweb.
On Twitter? Follow Wehr at @LisaWehr. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
Cover art compiled from "Social media, communication" and "Social media icons set in dollar" images via Shutterstock. In-article image also via Shutterstock: "Tick placed in excellent," "Staff rating silhouettes," "Brand rubber stamp," "One person says something," and "Business woman screaming."
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