Sr. Director, Marketing
Social media is changing the way that brands and organizations interact with prospects and customers. New opportunities are available for those bold enough to grab them, and new challenges await those who do.
This is especially true for subscription-based companies. Maintaining good customer relationships is important in traditional models to improve repeat sales, but when the very nature of your business hinges on a continuing relationship, you need more than repeat customers. You need fans.
But social media is opening doors for all of it by changing the face of brand/customer relationships. All you have to do is learn what kind of changes are happening, and how to best take advantage of it.
How Social Media is Changing Brand/Consumer Relationships
Social media is the new norm, but harnessing its power is about more than meeting people’s tech expectations, or keeping up with the latest marketing trends. The possibilities for maintaining relationships with your customers and prospects are too important to ignore.
Grant Cardone is an entrepreneur, sales coach, author and keynote speaker who gets most of his new clients through social media:
“If a business is not taking advantage of social media and using it to directly engage with customers and potential customers, they are missing an opportunity in a big way.”
The nature of social media requires businesses to engage with customers differently than you did in a broadcast-based marketplace, but if you can switch from selling to teaching and embrace transparency, your brand will see huge benefits.
Less Selling, More Teaching
It’s no secret that people are shopping and self-educating online, and moving themselves much deeper into the sales funnel before they even talk to your sales team. They don’t want to be sold, they want to be informed.
Jordan Melson is the Community Manager for TechnologyAdvice – a smart, online IT catalogue that matches users with the perfect systems for their needs:
“Our target market is enterprise IT buyers. Through social media interactions, we’ve learned more than anything that they crave information. IT buyers, especially in the business realm, do not make decisions on a whim. They want to know as much as possible about the purchases that warrant their time and money, so they search out content that offers facts, reviews, and recommendations to help research the products available. Our mission is to be completely unbiased in offering that content, and social interaction gives us another opportunity to build relationships within that market, earn trust and ultimately deliver a better outcome for the IT buyers we are trying to help.”
Persuasion doesn’t sell anymore. Trust sells. Provide your audience with the information they’re looking for, build the relationship, and when they’re ready to buy they will remember you.
Pull Back the Curtain
A lot of brands start communicating with social media the same way they communicate on their website or other marketing outlets: with a high level of professionalism, hiding names behind the logo. That doesn’t work here.
“I interact across social platforms myself. I tweet 95% of the time, and then my in-house team tweets about product deals and more promotional info. But 95% of the time, if you tweet @grantcardone and get a reply, I’m the one who did it. This Twitter activity is great because it’s not stiff and stodgy. People love the transparency.” – Grant Cardone
People see and hear thousands of ads every day, so get personal. If multiple people have access to your social accounts, let your employees sign their tweets/posts, encourage them to interact on your Facebook page as themselves instead of your brand, or set up unique usernames that combine your brand and their names. However you do it, pull back that curtain and let people see behind the scenes.
What About Subscription Services?
If your company is running a subscription service, does that change the game? Are customer relationships and social media more, or less, important?
Jay Baer sees a particular advantage for subscription-based services. Baer is the President of a group of digital marketing advisors called Convince & Convert, and has worked with more than 700 companies in the past 20 years:
“One of the best ways to succeed with a subscription-based business is to consistently reinforce that customers are making a good decision by continuing their relationship with your company. Doing so overtly rarely succeeds. The email that basically says, ‘Aren’t you glad you keep paying us?’ isn’t particularly valuable. But by finding ways to proactively interact and add value, you accumulate goodwill that reduces churn. And it’s not hard.”
Ideally, every company would strive to maintain good, ongoing relationships with their customers, but it may be said that these relationships are particularly important for subscription-based brands. Your business is based on a constant give-and-take, so maintaining strong relationships is vital. Social media is a great way to do just that.
Now What? 3 Ways to Build Relationships on Social Channels
So social media is an important and effective way to strengthen relationships with your customers, but how do you actually do it? Here are three key pieces of advice.
1.) Find Your People
Different social networks have different focuses, and therefore attract different people – from age ranges to lifestyle choices and more.
Stephanie Ciccarelli is an author, and the Co-Founder and CMO of Voices.com.
“The first thing any company needs to do when evaluating where they will spend their time on social networks, is to find the spots their customers are already gathering in. For us, we’ve identified Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be the most utilized by our customers, with each social network presenting unique opportunities to communicate and build relationships. With this in mind, we’re able to narrow our focus and really hone in on engaging those communities where our brand enjoys the greatest following and response.”
Do a little demographic research, see where other brands in your industry are heavily involved, or just test the waters on each social network and see what works.
2.) Go All-In
Just as bad (or worse) as no presence on a social network, is an anemic or forgotten presence on a social network. Dedicate sufficient resources to your networks – be it finances to pay someone, or time of your own – and jump in.
“I believe in massive action and massive content. I’m tweeting anywhere from 10 to 30 times a day. Videos are being posted to YouTube at least five times per week, Facebook posts are three to four times daily, plus personal interactions.
Our demographic is people from 16 to 60, who are online and interested in bettering their businesses and lives. To reach the masses, I need to be on social media, and only a small percentage can be delegated.” – Grant Cardone
Your industry and audience, as well as the network(s) you choose, will dictate how much content you should provide and how much time you should spend interacting with people. Watch your numbers: If you start losing followers, you may be overdoing it. If people are engaging, you’re probably doing great.
3.) Maximize Your Time
Your social media presence is as important as your client relationships, especially for subscription-based services, but there are still only 24 hours in a day. There are two basic ways to get the most out of your social media. Sometimes, you need the right tool:
“One way to maximize your time via social channels is to pre-schedule posts using a tool such as HootSuite. Pre-scheduling status updates gives me peace of mind, because I know that our content marketing is regulated with conversational ice breakers strategically queued up for discussion. This scheduling can be done hours before, or days in advance of a tweet or update going live. You could even map out an entire month’s worth or more of updates if you’re working with an editorial calendar.” – Ciccarelli, Voices.com
Other times, you need the right strategy. If you are working with a social media team, whether in-house or contracted, take the time to set them up for success.
“Social media is not free, and companies that are succeeding are dedicating resources. Building teams of people and transitioning their current workflow to a more digital ecosystem inspired my social media.” – Bryan Srabian, SF Giants
An efficient social media strategy is an effective one, and an effective social media strategy builds customer relationships and keeps subscribers happy.
Beware: 3 Ways to Use Social Media and NOT Build Relationships
Social media strategies are not fool-proof. As you get ready to sign up or log in, here are three things you don’t want to do on your networks.
1.) Broadcast Instead of Engaging
Remember: It is “social” first, and “media” second.
“When you communicate using social, the temptation can be to simply post links to drive traffic to your site instead of taking the time to develop a rapport with your audience and start meaningful conversations. When updating via Twitter, for example, we aim to spend more of our time listening and responding than promoting content. Thought leadership is important, as is driving traffic, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the greater conversation and the relationships you’re building.” – Ciccarelli, Voices.com
People see thousands of ads every day, and if they start to feel like your profile or your feed is just another commercial, they will tune it out.
2.) Lose Your Voice
Social networks are busy places, and it’s easy to get caught up in the trends. Make sure you’re always going back to your brand’s vision and values, and stick to your strategy.
Jason Miller is the Social Content Manager for Jim Beam:
“I think one of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is to lose sight of its own identity and authenticity, and to try to be everything to everyone.
This definitely played itself out over the last 18 months with the rush to ‘real-time’ marketing. There were several brands that just tried to be a part of every major cultural event. Instead of waiting and trying to fit into every major life event, look for the opportunity to create your own event. Your fans can help you. Just listen to what they are saying. Find your own insight that links to your brand, and build around that.”
The goal of your social media strategy should not be to fit in with popular marketing trends. The goal is to stand out, and the best way to stand out in your networks is honest, authentic relationships.
3.) Love Tech More Than Your Customers
Social media is cool, and it’s okay to be a fan. Don’t get so interested in the platform, however, that you lose sight of the people standing in front of it.
Vice President of Digital Marketing for The Patrón Spirits Company, Adrian D. Parker:
“It’s so easy to be biased by tech trends and software solutions that distract from the real focus: delighting customers. Social media has transformed the way we do business by focusing on consumer needs and empowering users. Many of us, myself included, forget that the true head of social media is our customer, and they ultimately want to be in control. No one wants a relationship with a tech platform. The technology is the enabler and it’s best when it’s invisible.”
A wise man once said that with great power comes great responsibility. Make sure you, or your social team, don’t get so caught up in your super social powers that you lose sight of whom you are serving.
Go Make Friends
In many ways, social media is a gift to marketers, and in other ways it comes with a whole new set of challenges – especially for subscription-based services. Every brand wants to build and maintain good relationships with their customers, but subscriptions especially need an enthusiastic fan-base. Social media is providing a host of new ways to talk and listen to your fans, and the brands that last will be the ones who make the most of it.