Social Media, whether you like them or not, have become essential to build a competitive - and truly innovative - marketing strategy. A social media plan, thus, is no longer optional for brands wishing to grow their shares and compete for customers’ attention.
While it may still be quite hard to measure ROI on social media marketing, try to focus on what really matters in the digital world: the experience. The question, then, is how can you use social media to improve customer experience.
The 2015 F8 Facebook Developer Conference confirms that Mark Zuckerberg aims at transforming Facebook into a one-fits-all platform where companies and users can create a complete relationship, online and offline (with social conversations, social care and social shopping). The spread of mobile devices - enabling customers to be connected wherever they are - is only making the ‘social’ element of the customer experience more urgent.
Online communities - giants like Facebook and Twitter or small promising start-ups like Meerkat - are now integral part of how you conduct business: as the years pass by, the word-of-mouth stream is gaining more power, and it’s not by coincidence that even search engines are working to include social content in the result pages (Google+ posts in the organic SERP; Facebook contents in the Knowledge Graph).
Let’s get this one thing perfectly clear: today, a content marketing plan is not even conceivable without social networks. They allow you to gather customer information, understand their needs and desires, build engagement and retain loyalty. And, most important, to take full control of your brand identity and avoid bad experiences to your clients (we are all well-aware of the weight the experience has in the purchase decision process!).
“Your customers will be participating in social networks to engage in conversations about your company. Ignoring those conversations can be downright dangerous. Joining the conversations can provide a world of benefits” (Oracle).
For this very reason, all recent studies show that, from 2015 on, the majority of companies will increase spending on social media marketing despite the ROI dilemma. Social relations have become a critical touchpoint in the customer journey map. Instead of measuring returns by profits, you should use them to improve the overall experience.
Here are 5 ways you can use social media to improve customer experience.
ENGAGE WITH CUSTOMERS
Blogging platforms and social networks have been the main force that has brought the 'Internet for business' to the interactive 2.0 version. How? Supporting a two-ways communication between brands and users. Facebook, of course, right now is the biggest player in the arena: the perfect place to take note of what customers want, engage them in a conversation and make them feel like they’re part of the brand themselves. Focus your social presence on the networks your customers frequent the most and don't underestimate the power of the social long tail.
RESPOND IN REAL-TIME
Empowered customers use their smartphone (shortly their smartwatch) to search for all useful information to make the best purchase decision. They demand that brands are always able to respond to their doubts and questions in real-time, wherever they are and whenever they need it. Social media become crucial to deal with positive and negative feedback promptly. Twitter is the best choice for customer service, but we foresee the use of mobile messaging apps as alternative (Facebook is already considering Messenger a social care platform).
CONNECT AND PERSONALIZE
The rule with social media marketing is to stay always current, to evolve with customers' taste and look for new channels to connect with them. Not all social networks, though, fit for your specific business. Carefully select your communities to avoid wasting money and time on irrelevant sites. Whatever you choose, make sure you always offer consistent and relevant contents, discarding standard and ready-made solutions. In an era of personalized experience, you must train the capability to custom-cut contents for the medium and the audience.
STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
We know that the creation of a strong brand identity starts with the ability to attract more customers and retain their attention. This is the first step for any customer experience management. But how can you do it, in overcrowded communication environments? The two keywords: content and context. Social networks and mobile technologies highlight the importance of epic visual content. The raising of visuals in the feed stream is a good news for retail brands - specially those working in the fashion, luxury and beauty industries. Add the growing integration with E-commerce and you will understand the success of Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Vine.
BOOST CUSTOMER RETENTION
Social networks are ideal to create engagement and promote loyalty, involving users into a compelling digital customer experience. This is critical in the Age of the Customer, a new paradigm where the customer - not the product - is the reason why you plan your marketing strategy. When customers can choose from a potentially infinite set of suppliers, loyalty becomes the most valuable asset. How can you improve customer retention using social? Visual contests, webinars, live-chat, trending hashtags, user generated contents, gamification dynamics: the only limit is your imagination (and core business).
One thing is for sure: if you ignore the potential of social networks, it doesn’t mean they won’t have an impact on your business. Social media won’t go away ... but maybe your customers will: the social experience has become crucial in shaping the future of brands. A good customer experience management, in fact, will result in improved retention and loyalty, a prelude for repeat sales.
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The adoption of a proper social strategy is one of the blocks of the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation. You can download the free paper here: