Beyond publishing and advertising, one of social media’s most important business functions is that it enables you to connect with customers on a very personal level. Every client is within your reach and can easily be talked to directly. You can have many of these conversations simultaneously, something you couldn’t do over the phone or even in person. And social media allows you to quickly learn about customers, from what they share and your interactions with them.
All of this can help you build a more personal connection with customers, as long as you understand its value. We look at four important ways to strengthen your relationship with customers using social media:
Meet customers where they are, not where you are
As the saying goes, every customer is different. Thankfully, every social network is different too. There are different networks that work better for publishing, reviews, bookmarking and simple discussion. In fact, there are at least 8 categories of social networks, with some networks (like Facebook) fitting into several, if not all of them. People will use Twitter for customer service, Facebook for content and Pinterest for shopping. Others will use Twitter for shopping, LinkedIn for content and Facebook for customer service.
If that seems too complicated, you should look at it from the customer’s perspective. The variety of social networks means a variety of options to connect with businesses on their own terms. In brick and mortar businesses, the company determines the setting and environment of your interaction. Online, customers are the ones who decide. They expect more flexibility and you can respond by giving it to them.
Meet your customers where they are, don’t wait for them to come to you:
- Find the largest concentration of your clients and prospects and double down on that social network.
- Bring your customer service teams wherever people are asking questions.
- Offer content on networks where most of your customers are sharing it.
Meeting customers where they are also means allowing them to use the tools they’re comfortable with. More and more, this means creating mobile-friendly experiences. Whether they’re on their laptop or their photo, whether they’re an iOS or an Android user, you and your content should be accessible to them. Though it can feel overwhelming, there are apps like Sparkflow to help you optimize your efforts for any platform. The small emphasis you put on meeting customers expectations on social media will make a big difference in building a real relationship with them.
Make traditional marketing social
No one expects businesses to simply ditch traditional approaches to marketing. Instead, companies should be working to make those approaches more social. From email marketing to events, social media will help you strengthen the connections you create through traditional marketing channels.
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways for businesses to touch base with customers, but it is a very one-way method. Using social media in tandem with email marketing turns that touch point into a real conversation. With the MailChimp app for Hootsuite, you can track the performance of your customer emails to understand what content succeeds with your customers and learn more about them. This knowledge can then quickly be applied to your social media interactions with the same customers.
Hosting events is another traditional marketing approach that is greatly strengthened by social media. Events used to be very rigid, defined by the venue and the number of tickets sold. Social media has changed that.
Look at FreshBooks, a cloud-based accounting solutions provider that used social media for an innovative event marketing campaign focused on a repurposed food truck. FreshBooks wanted to do something special for Small Business Week in Canada—to show that it is a company that cares. The team came up with the #FreshBrew campaign, repurposing a food truck as the “FreshMobile”and delivered hot cups of fair-trade coffee to entrepreneurs and small business owners in downtown Toronto.
They didn’t use a venue or ask people to sign up. Instead, they tweeted out their route each day via the #FreshBrew hashtag and surprised individual offices with hand-delivered java if they indicated on social channels that they couldn’t make it out to that day’s location. The team monitored the hashtag, company mentions, and tracked who was interacting with their content and messages. This resulted in a very successful campaign, one that taught them a lot about their customers and provided opportunities to meet them face-to-face, creating a real personal bond between clients and company.
Listen more than you talk
Too many businesses see social media as another opportunity for broadcasting. Social media is even more powerful when you spend your time listening. Social networks provide so many opportunities to listen to your customers and gain personal insight that will help your business succeed.
Take geo searches for examples. Geo searches allow you to listen to regional or location based conversations. This helps businesses find out what people really think about them, even if they’re not mentioned directly in the Tweet.
With locations on multiple continents, Five Guys restaurant uses geo search to monitor specific conversations in specific locations, so they don’t miss anything important. By first setting up a good listening strategy, and then breaking it down by location, the Five Guys team has been able to gain deeper understanding into what is working and what’s missing the mark across their global markets, as well as sentiment around individual campaigns or initiatives.
When they opened the first Five Guys location in the UK, they used Hootsuite to monitor people’s discussions about the restaurant within a certain mile radius of the city of London. They also reached out to individuals directly and let them know they were opening.
Geosearch helped Five Guys find both positive and negative feedback from customers, and engage with them on a more personal level.
To better connect with your customers, create a social listening strategy. This should involve:
- Tracking your mentions and any mentions of your product, including misspellings
- Saving search streams and hashtag streams in your Hootsuite dashboard
- Preparing and listening for opportunities to engage clients in real-time
- Responding to all feedback and comments, even the negative stuff
Tell their stories
One of the easiest ways to strengthen your relationship with clients is to tell their stories. Businesses should be striving to make their customers the hero of their brand story, not themselves. Sharing customer stories or user-generated content is one of the most effective ways to achieve that.
You should always be encouraging clients to share their successes with your product or service. Acknowledge their stories and share them with other clients. This kind of recognition shows them you appreciate their business and their contributions to your online community. It also encourages other customers to share their own stories, creating a cycle of community building on social media.
We use this technique at Hootsuite, not only to share the successes of customers but also to provide learning opportunities. Take our success story with the Universitat de Valencia. This Spanish university created a fantastic multi-level social media strategy designed to make it easy for students to reach out with questions, as well as find information to help them on their student journey. Talking with the university about their experience taught us so much about how clients are finding innovative ways to use Hootsuite. Sharing their story provides countless other organizations with insight that will help them succeed in their own social efforts.
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