Despite having an amazing opportunity to initiate and sustain meaningful dialogues with their consumers, many brands treat social media primarily as a broadcast platform.
Emphasis, energy and resources are typically pumped into the creation and publication of meaningful content – which is great – but minimal effort is put toward initiating conversations with current and prospective consumers. Virtually all interactions are the result of consumers taking it upon themselves to comment on a business’ content, ask a question, request customer assistance, or other consumer-initiated dialogue.
By proactively initiating a dialogue with consumers, you can expect to reach a broader audience, attract new consumers, build affinity for your brand, encourage reciprocated sociability, and increase the likelihood of consumers adding your brand to their consideration set. In short, you’ll be on your way to building real relationships, and if properly sustained and nurtured, and you continually offer tremendous value, you will experience all of the resulting benefits.
Not bad for starting and sustaining a conversation.
And, it makes sense. In the context of face-to-face interactions in the offline world, initiating a dialogue is the best way to have a meaningful conversation. Lurking in the shadows, waiting for someone to talk to you rarely results in amazing interactions, and the same holds true on social media (except, of course, for rare circumstances).
So, the question is, how can you go about initiating a dialogue with your consumers on social media?
Spend more time listening
The openness of many social media platforms means that as a business or brand, you have the capability to listen in on and observe your consumers’ conversations. By spending more time tuning into the pulse of your consumers’ conversations, you’ll be better positioned to identify opportunities to jump in and be a meaningful contributor to a conversation that is relevant to your brand.
Follow and subscribe to your consumers
A great number of businesses and brands have a strong focus on audience acquisition though rarely think about the benefits of following their consumers. Not only will this serve as an ice-breaker to introduce your brand, but will allow you to more easily monitor and follow the discussions your consumers are having on various social media channels.
Get involved in related communities
Believe it or not, your consumers are talking about your business and brand in channels that are not your own. In some cases, there are thriving, vibrant consumer-run communities that are focused on conversations to do with your business, brand, category, competition, and other related topics.
Take some time to monitor the discussions that are happening around the web that are relevant to you, and gauge the appropriateness of joining in. There will be some cases where the injection of your brand may be viewed as an intrusion, through there will be other cases where it will be welcomed. After thorough monitoring, use your best judgment to make a call as to how to proceed. The worst-case scenario is that you’ve found a meaningful forum for discussion to do with your business or brand, which can be a great source of insight.
Set goals and dedicate time to engagement
In my experience, the trouble most businesses and brands have with proactively initiating conversations on social media is a perceived lack of time. It’s one more thing, and in some cases one more thing too many, to do on top of an already ambitious publication schedule, responding to comments and questions, and other marketing activity.
To overcome this, I’d recommend you add goals to your social media strategy for consumer outreach and initiating conversations. Start with something manageable such as initiating X number of conversations with targeted consumers daily. Keep it small, get a feel for the time it takes, and build on that.
How do you actively initiate a dialogue with your consumers?
If you don’t, what keeps you from doing so?
It would be great to chat with you more about this in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
This post builds on an article I wrote entitled, Is Your Business Forgetting to be Social on Social Media, and will be followed-up with a future post on overcoming organizational barriers to being more social.
Social media marketing is perfectly suited to sustain relationships with your consumers, even after they’ve made a purchase.
An effective social media strategy that accomplishes this will result in sustaining and strengthening loyalty, and will ultimately result in higher repeat purchase intent.
In virtually every category, repeat purchases can be substantial contributors to long-term growth and success. If you can sustain a meaningful relationship with consumers through their ownership of your product or effect of your service, your sales efforts for repeat purchase will be much more efficient. It is always easier to sustain meaningful relationships with consumers than it is to cultivate new ones from scratch.
So, what should you do to sustain relationships with existing post-market consumers on social media?
Following are a few ideas:
Continue to provide contextually relevant value
When consumers graduate from being in-market, to making a purchase and being post-market, the content they see value in is going to change. They will see much more value in learning about ways to make the most of their purchase and reinforcement that they made a good purchase decision than relearning key attributes and selling features, after all, they’ve already bought into your value proposition.
Try to find ways to make your consumers feel even better about their purchase in the days, weeks and months following the initial excitement and enthusiasm wears off, you’ll be that much more likely to having them remain loyal and make repeat purchases.
Invest in supporting your product or service
It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, nothing is perfect. At some point, you’re going to be faced with a decision on how to provide support and service to your customers, and increasingly, consumers are looking for it on social media.
I strongly recommend thinking through every imaginable scenario that you might encounter, and figure out how to deal with those circumstances in advance of them occurring. This will enable you to act with confidence and more swiftly when you need to, and your consumers will appreciate how organized and professional you are.
Treat every interaction as an opportunity to strengthen loyalty
For many businesses, making a sale is the ultimate goal. Making a sale though, is really just a step toward building long-term loyalty and driving repeat purchase.
Whether online or offline, treat every follow-up interaction with your consumers as an opportunity to impress them and strengthen their loyalty to your business. Use consumers’ inherent skepticism about dealing with businesses to your advantage and create huge emotional swings in favour of your business and brand by surprising and delighting them through the quality of your interactions and the value that you continue to provide to them.
Investing in areas to build loyalty and motivate repeat purchase is difficult for many businesses. Justifying the energy, effort and expense in these areas requires a long-term vision and in some cases, ROI isn’t experienced for some time. Have faith that the efficiency of sustaining the relationships you build with post-market consumers will yield great results, giving your business a stronger, more sustainable future.
How do you build and sustain loyalty with your consumers?
Do you have a strategy in place to encourage repeat purchases?
It would be great to chat with you about this more in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
I’ll be writing about the importance of engaging and interacting with in-market consumers in a future post, but if you have interest in related reading on influencing pre-market consumers, please check out my article, ‘The Importance of Influencing Pre-Market Consumers on Social Media’.
Most businesses that invest heavily in social media tend to forget one key component to maximizing their success in developing direct relationships with their audience;
They forget to be social.
Much effort and attention is given to creating valuable content, publishing at just the right time to maximize impressions, determining what triggers to use to incite sharing, figuring out how to encourage comments and ‘likes’, and more.
All of this is great, but there isn’t anything social about publishing content and hoping for virality metrics to shoot through the roof. Even replying to comments left on blog content, Facebook updates, tweets and Google+ posts isn’t truly being social.
Think about it in the context of your life. You don’t go to a party, see some guy standing in the corner all by his lonesome, and think, ‘man, that guy is really putting himself out there!’. He’d probably answer a question if you asked him, but he’s not doing anything to garner attention, attract people to him, or develop new connections or relationships.
Except for very rare circumstances, businesses and brands simply cannot expect to develop meaningful relationships with consumers on social media without behaving socially.
The beautiful thing about social media is that it gives businesses the opportunity to proactively speak with their audience, including current and prospective consumers. That’s powerful stuff.
Initiate a dialogue.
If you are hoping to develop real relationships with your consumers, attract them to participate in the discussions that are occurring on your social media properties, and encourage them to be social, I strongly encourage you to initiate a dialogue with them in the places that they are naturally spending their time online.
By initiating conversations, you are greatly enhancing the probability that you will not only receive a reply, but also achieve reciprocated dialogue. When you create a dialogue with your consumers, you’re going to be better able to understand them, know what they want, fully comprehend their needs, and figure out how to provide tremendous value with your products, services and content.
Develop direct relationships with your consumers.
You are also going to greatly increase the value of the interactions you have with your consumers if there is some give-take. Nobody wants to be involved in a relationship in which they are simply broadcast to. That’s not a relationship at all. People want want to be part of a discussion, and have influence over its course.
This can be unnerving to businesses and brands that are used to retaining control of their communications, but it is also extremely exciting if you can adapt, learn, and be nimble enough to take advantage of the tremendous value that the direct relationships you cultivate with your consumers will yield.
If there is one thing to take away from this post, it is to find ways for your business to be more proactively social on social media. You don’t sit on your hands waiting for consumers to learn about your business or brand in the offline world. You market, advertise, write press releases, work to generate word of mouth, and develop and build relationships. All of this is proactive and action oriented.
On social media you should really be doing the same. Try to avoid turning social media into a broadcast channel for your content, and get involved with your consumers where they are interacting and engaging on the social web.
How do you proactively engage socially with your consumers online?
In future posts I’ll get into details about how you can initiate a dialogue with consumers on social media, as well as how you can overcome organizational barriers to being more social.
In the meantime, it would be great to chat with you about your thoughts on this in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial