In its early days, social media meant "connecting with people." That’s still what it’s mostly about. But obviously, we’ve come a long way from those now prehistoric list-servs where we simply posted messages back-and-forth with people of similar interests and pursuits. It’s still about connecting. But now organizations use it for targeted marketing purposes, where once social media was considered the protected domain of the individual. Consumers seem to accept that it has become just another means by which brands are going to try to earn their loyalty. But these consumers have remained firm about one thing when responding to brand marketers using social media: play by our rules, not yours. Brands, that means you have to carry on a respectful, timely, two-way conversation.
This paradigm shift is hard for a lot of brands to accept. Are you ready?
Companies sometimes shy away from social media because they either believe their customers are not using it or they are afraid of losing control. Tip: your customers and competitors are engaged. Even more of your future customers and competitors will be.
If that thought fills you with fear, take heart. People talking about your brand online is a good thing. What they say benefits you, even in the rare instance when it is negative. You read that right – a negative remark on Twitter or Facebook about your brand presents a golden opportunity to engage in some “new marketing.” If someone complains, you get to respond directly – in front of an audience of thousands if not millions. You get to solve the problem, and you get to re-establish your brand in a positive light, with everyone watching.
If you decide not to engage with your consumers on social media, you may do so at your own peril. If you’re not involved, you may already have lost control. Blogs, Facebook pages, and community sites can be set up by people outside your company. Your best strategy is to set up a robust social media presence that people will want to follow instead of random fan pages that others have set up. Without an official page, your current and potential customers have no choice but to follow a “renegade” page.
Still undecided? Here are four benefits of getting involved in social media and riding the wave of its evolution:
- Real customer testimonials gained through social media will outperform anything marketers can develop.
- Social media unites and connects like-minded individuals. These people become your (unpaid!) brand ambassadors.
- The authenticity of a customer’s voice breaks through the clutter of preplanned (read: canned) marketing messages.
- You’ll develop one-to-one relationships with your customers.
So, what are you doing about it today? What are you doing to get into or expand in social media? What successes have you seen? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.
Dave Wendland is VP and co-owner of Hamacher Resource Group, a retail healthcare consultancy located near Milwaukee, Wis. He directs business development, product innovation and marketing communications activities for the company and has been instrumental in positioning HRG among the industry’s foremost thought leaders. You may contact him at (414) 431-5301 or learn more at Hamacher.com.