A few days ago, I casually tweeted to my followers I have yet to receive a ComEd electric bill since I moved into my apartment over 2 months ago. I used no hashtag, no @Mention and yet, within minutes, @ComEd had responded, direct messaged me, and looked up my issue in their system, saving me the hassle of contacting customer service. I sure was impressed, and let everyone know it!
Attended a Great Event
Next, I had the opportunity to attend the Social Communications & Content Leadership Forum, presented by PR Newswire and the Business Development Institute. I learned exactly what companies like ComEd are doing to successfully engage with their customers via social media. Fortune 500 companies are dedicating entire departments to social media, but most small and mid-size companies don’t have the resources to do so. With the tips below, any company can use social media to promote brand awareness, provide customer support, and generate sales leads.
Let’s cover 5 ways companies can leverage social media.
1) Broaden your definition of social media
Heather Oldani, Director of Communications for McDonald’s, defines social media as the use of technology to turn one-way communication into an interactive dialogue. Instead of just limiting ourselves to thinking of traditional social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, we must expand our interpretation to include other digital forms of two-way communication. Examples of expanded social media platforms include news sites with the ability to share and comment on stories, virtual events with the ability to engage with presenters, and interactive games with the ability to interact with other players.
2) Develop a brand personality
Your brand is comprised of a variety of unique personalities that work together to provide to create a unified voice. Your audience knows that your tweets aren’t created by a robot, and if they are, you clearly need to go back to Twitter 101. McDonald’s has an entire team of Tweeps, who connect with the McDonald’s audience, represent the brand, and express their own personality. Be careful when delegating a team to promote your brand though, as anything they say can influence people’s brand perception. Set clear guidelines for your team so that expectations are clear.
3) Understand your audience
PRNewswire now has over 52,000 Twitter followers, but when their Twitter account first launched, their social media manager read every single profile of their first 5,000 followers. Although this took a lot of time and effort, it enabled them to understand who they were talking to. This is a step that many companies often miss, thinking of their social media audience as a nameless, faceless crowd, rather than individuals with interests, hobbies and ideas.
Fortune 100 companies are turning to social media monitoring services like Radian6 to help them understand their audiences, but for smaller companies, all you need to do is a little research.
Let’s use Twitter as an example. Look at not only who follows you, but who replies and retweets. Figure out your main demographic, and what sort of content they want from you. Looking through your audience’s timelines for hashtag trends will also provide you with key insight on which conversations you should be involved in. Don’t feel pressured to constantly be churning out new content. Your audience views you as a content aggregator, so provide a balance of unique content and industry highlights.
4) Realize that your audience cares about themselves more than they care about you
Before any click of the mouse, users think to themselves “what’s in it for me?” Therefore, before every post we should be asking ourselves “how will this benefit my audience?” We must treat our audience as business partners, not as sales leads, and stay away from posts purely related to our product. (Count how many times I’ve mentioned virtual events in this post!) Once your audience trusts you, and turns to you as a resource, it will be a natural reaction for them to turn to you once your services are needed.
5) Focus on building a relationship
Social media is should be just that – social. Make sure that you not only talk to your audience, but listen as well. Don’t be discouraged if you receive complaints, its human nature for people to share more negative experiences than positive ones. Use negative comments to your advantage, and connect with these users to rectify the situation. McDonalds has the budget to send unhappy social media users a gift card to rectify the situation, but not all of us do – and that’s okay. As shown by my personal encounter with ComEd, often a simple “I’m sorry about that” can go a long way. And of course, don’t just focus on you unhappy customers, but on your happy ones as well. Did someone say something nice about you? A simple “Thank you!” can go a long way as well.
With almost 500,000 new twitter accounts created per day, and more than 800 million active Facebook users, social media is here to stay. Our ability to reach and connect to our customers and industry peers is unlike anything we have seen before. Listen, react, measure, and take advantage of everything that social media can do for your brand.
Post contributed by Lauren Wolf