Creating social media evangelists for your brand
In today's highly connected world, an increasing number of business professionals are making social media a key component of their marketing strategy. They are employing social media to engage customers, build awareness, improve retention and loyalty, and ultimately turn customers into evangelists for their brand. WSI has a proven track record and examines some commonly held social media myths, as well as explores the benefits that social media can bring to a business. WSI leverages some of its most successful social media strategies to help your business grow its bottom line and provide a better brand awareness for your customers.
creating a social media plan
When it comes to developing a plan to turn customers into advocates, the first and most important step is figuring out what these advocates can do to build loyalty and drive business your way. Should they offer testimonials, act as early adopters or reviewers of new products, provide user support, write blogs, or a combination of these? After we help you set your objectives, WSI establishes a plan to do the following:
• Builds your following
• Encourages interaction and information sharing
• Fosters engagement with regular updates
• Provides incentives (information, contests, "super user" status, and so on)
• Uses a content calendar to generate chatter about upcoming events
With these guidelines in mind, here are the steps that WSI has found most effective in creating a successful social media strategy.
1. Find out who is talking about your brand.
There are a lot of tools to help, some free and some not. The most basic is the Twitter search; just type in the company name, and you'll see what people are saying.
2. Analyze the feedback.
To get an overall sense of how people feel about your company, classify the different types of chatter. For instance, placing categories on a spreadsheet might help you identify a group of especially unhappy users. Reading their specific feedback can make it easier to fix problems and find ways to build or improve those customer relationships.
3. Move the relationship offline.
Social media can create an initial relationship, but moving the interaction offline is the best way to strengthen it. Companies that use social media successfully read feedback to find out what's concerning their customers, and then they move the conversation away from that platform and get to know the person behind the username and avatar to personalize and enrich the relationship.
4. Offer resources and incentives to likely "evangelists".
WSI used its own tools to create company advocates. Using data from its Twitter API, it searched specific keywords to find out which products were being discussed. That feedback went to a product manager or customer service rep, and that person responded to begin building the relationship. Over time, WSI has used chatter to distinguish potential evangelists from neutral or dissatisfied customers, and this has helped sharpen our focus. Some people will never like a particular company or brand, and it isn't worth the effort to change their minds. Instead, it's better to try to sway neutral users and make fans even more avid champions for your cause.
5. Build an influencer map.
An influencer map helps you understand who your biggest supporters are and define their demographics, psychographics, and social graphics (the social media platforms that they use most often). Knowing where these supporters spend their time online helps you get in touch with them to strengthen your relationship. From there, you can create a list of evangelists and start to find ways to motivate them.
6. Devise a plan.
The plan will vary from company to company, but usually it's meant to encourage engagement among current followers, not find new followers. Find ways to motivate supporters to talk about your company. This could be a contest of some kind or exclusive access to relevant information.
7. Manage the plan.
After the plan is set, you need some way to keep it running. The plan needs to be carried out consistently and efficiently to make an impact. Some companies have found that a content calendar, which includes important dates for specific product groups, is a valuable tool on some platforms. When these calendars get posted, the quality of the surrounding chatter goes way up, and people are more willing to refer their contacts to the content.
8. Deploy effective metrics.
To gauge the success of your social media efforts, you must employ effective metrics. Social media does not have one definitive set of metrics—your approach depends on your company and its specific goals.
• Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a great place to begin. Start with what drives business for your company, and then map back to certain social metrics. Remember that the most relevant metrics depend on what your company wants to do, whether it is to generate leads, increase brand awareness, build relation- ships, leverage customer feedback, or enhance product development.
• Always use multiple metrics to create as comprehensive a picture as possible.
• Use the data collected to look for a correlation between specific social media strategies and the number of leads that you generate. Adobe did this with one of its accounts, using the monitoring and measurement
tools of Adobe SiteCatalyst®, powered by Omniture, to quantify the number of site visitors and registrants.
• Tracking codes can help you find out where your customers are coming from. WSI has used a unique
tracking code for each tweet to see who clicks the link and who takes the next step, be it a registration or a sale.
9. Optimize your program.
By knowing what works and what doesn't, you can improve your social media strategy to yield increasingly better results. Using a proprietary software, WSI can measure, analyze, and optimize integrated data from all online initiatives across marketing channels. WSI can tell you which platforms or messages have worked best so that you can focus your efforts around them. Optimizing your program is a continuous process of measuring and optimizing, and then re-measuring and re-optimizing again as part of a continuous improvement cycle. After refining your program from an internal perspective, it is also helpful to observe what other companies are doing so that you get an expanded sense of best practices in the larger social media world.
Social media myths
Social media can't be successful without a realistic level of thought and investment. If a company is using social media but doesn't have a plan that includes the right strategy, resources, and budget, chances are that company will be missing the mark. Social media isn't something that can be done haphazardly or once in a while. Facebook is littered with company pages that do nothing to encourage customer engagement or brand loyalty.
According to Forrester Research, consumers don't trust most corporate blogs. First, the opinions expressed are those of the company, not independent consumers. Most blogs provide very little engagement, if any, and they don't seem to correlate to other marketing strategies. This failure to engage in a meaningful way might stem from some of the common myths surrounding social media.
Myth #1—Social media is about the conversation
Social media fosters conversation, but that can't be the goal of a social media strategy. The conversation only matters if it leads to a business goal like attracting new customers, building awareness, fostering brand loyalty, or increasing revenue and retention. If social media chatter is a goal in and of itself, business benefits are lost. A company needs to carefully think through its social media strategy, making sure that it is aligned with higher level goals and can deliver the desired results.
Myth #2—Social media is free
Working with social media takes time and staffing. Companies like Intel and Dell are dedicating dozens of people solely to social media–related activities, and those people cost money and put considerable time into their work. Businesses taking on social media need to believe in its potential and see a compelling business reason to devote so many of their resources to it.
Myth #3—Social media campaigns have a clear beginning and end
Many marketing campaigns have clear start and end points, but not social media. There is no end, because chatter continues even after the posts and tweets have stopped. So instead of thinking of social media as a finite campaign, think of it as a way to get people to talk about your brand and to find out what people are saying about your products and company.
Myth #4—Social media can't be measured
Because of its open and organic nature, it is often thought that social media can't be measured. This is not the case. To use social media effectively, you must first understand customer behavior. You need to look at what people are doing across channels and become familiar enough with meaningful patterns that you can leverage these in your social media program. Setting up good metrics with effective measurement tools that provide data and measure results is just as important with social media as with other marketing campaigns.