Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Relationship value: What can you expect from social media?

What can you expect from social media?
By this point in time, you’re probable completely sold on the reasons why you’ve got to be in social media, why you’ve got to develop any sort of social presence for your business or product so that, at least, you get to be on the same level as your competitors are. That we know.

“If you aren’t visible, you don’t exist”, many people would tell you, and even though I don’t like to go so radical, I do have to admit it the same way. Maybe it isn’t that you don’t exist, but for sure you are missing out on big opportunities.

But let’s see, what can you really expect from social media? What’s in it for you? Which are those “benefits” that your company might have access to by having a Facebook page or even a Twitter account?

If you want it really, really simple, with minimum wording: closely relate with your customers, as you never did before.

Do social media allow you to listen to what your customers are saying about your brand? Yes, they do. Do they allow you to set up “viral” promotional campaigns? Again, they do. Do they serve as a complement to your offline marketing efforts? Obviously they do.

However, if you look at those little three questions, all have one thing in common: behind them, there is a client with whom you're getting connected!

It’s in this relationship with your customer where the "gold mine" exists for social networks. It’s this relationship the point from which a rich and natural interaction between your brand and its customers can be born, in which relevant content is shared for both parties, from which you can get to know your customers so closely as to even invite them even to participate in the development of your products, as Dell Computers is doing with their customers.

If you’ve previously made marketing plans, you’ve probably been used to working only from one side, unilaterally. The only way to measure whether your efforts were effective, was by the corresponding sales growth. No increase in sales, no effectiveness. If you wanted to know how to better refine your strategies, you had to rely on market research. If you didn’t have the budget for it, then you guided yourself with your "crystal ball" ... unfortunately in many cases (and fortunately in others) it was the way to go.

Today you’ve to face a completely different reality. Your client doesn’t disappear after leaving the store with the shopping bag and next time you get to see him is when he comes to buy again. Most of the times, your client has a digital life: an email account, a social profile (be it Facebook, Linkedin or whatever), jumps to the Internet to find information about their hobbies and a lot of things.

And it’s on those sites where you can meet him again. A possibility that was not there before!

That is why, in my personal opinion, the most important thing you can expect from social media, is to take advantage of this valuable opportunity to interact with your client. Talk to him (or her, of course) ask why they like your product, how they use it, ask about their hobbies, favorite sports, his favorite reading, and so on.

Who says you can’t find great opportunities to expand your business, getting connected this way with your clients? For example, let’s say you sell bags for athletes and it turns out, talking to your customers, that for 95% of them, volleyball is their favorite sport. Wouldn’t it be an important marketing opportunity for your business to sponsor your city’s volleyball team, for instance?

There you have the most valuable benefit you can expect from your social media presence: Relating with your customers this way: closely, effectively, and proactively. And above all, the benefits are for both, not only for you.

What do you expect from your social media presence? Do you perceive it more as an additional sales channel, or it’s a valuable item for you?

Related post: ROI on social media: When 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4

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