The role of social media in the customer journey
Social media is no longer the new kid on the block. There are no more doubts as to whether this was to be but a short lived fad and no longer is it acceptable to utter the words ‘I’ll get round to it’. No more excuses, social media is here to stay and business owners, if you’re not socially engaging with your audience it better be high on your to do list or chances are they’ll be engaging with your competitors quicker than you can say #yolo.
Even if you’ve never tweeted, posted, pinned or blogged in your life, chances are people are already talking about you and will continue to talk about you whether you decide to join the conversation or not. But be warned, turning your back on social media is turning your back on the potential of reaching your audience in a place they want to interact with you.
The story so far…
By now you should all be aware of the customer journey but for those of you that haven’t read our previous posts (you should, they’re pretty neat), in a nutshell this is the route your customers take from need recognition all the way through to purchase and on their way to becoming a loyal customer.
Now that social media is no longer the foreign landscape it once was, business owners and marketers should now be looking at how this channel fits into the journeys of their customers and how it can facilitate and even accelerate the path their audience takes to purchase. Only by looking at the whole picture can we begin to see the benefit of using this channel and the long-term, strategic impact it can have on a business.
Engagement – so what?
When it comes to social media, we see the term engagement thrown about a lot, but what do we really mean by engagement and what is the business benefit of engaging with customers?
Think about how your audience are currently being exposed to your company. Perhaps they visit your company website, pick up a brochure or leaflet, receive one of your latest emails or see one of your ads in the local newspaper? One thing all these channels have in common is that the message is being communicated from the company to the customer in the hope they’ll take notice and that it will persuade them enough to consider your company. But in all this we are missing one vital ingredient – interaction. All this self-promotion is all well and good but it’s all very one way. It seems we have forgotten that our customers have a voice and that this voice is actually the most powerful of all.
The power of WOM
Going back to basics, long before the advent of social media, WOM has always been and probably always will be, the most effective form of promotion. Companies are bias – naturally they’re always going to portray themselves in a positive light no matter what the customer really thinks. Joe public however, has no reason to conceal their true opinions. If a customer has a bad experience with a company, likelihood is they’re going to tell people about it and people will believe them because well, why shouldn’t they? A customer doesn’t have an obligation to speak highly of a company and they don’t have a sales quota to meet so we are much more likely to trust them over a brand whose primary aim is to sell.
In the digital sphere things are no different and in actuality, the web has only made these rules more apparent. People now have access to more insights than ever at the click of a mouse. No longer do we have to wait until the next social occasion to tell people about our latest experience with a brand. Using the web we can find reviews and opinions from friends, family, even complete strangers in seconds.
It has become second nature to read reviews about a product or service before we decide to purchase and will quickly be put off by a product receiving negative comments.
WOM goes social
With the advent of social media, consumers now have more channels available to them than ever to voice their opinions, and boy are they using it. Suddenly the voice of the consumer has been amplified meaning they have more power over your brand than ever before. They won’t think twice about telling their followers about their bad experience with your brand and equally they’ll be more than happy to sing your praises when you do something well. Same rules as before right? The difference with social media is however, is that everything is real-time, everything is instant and most importantly, everything is visible. With social media there is nowhere to hide – if someone has something to say about your company, chances are their opinion is going to get seen by numerous others who will take note. Just think about the ripple effect we see in Twitter everyday whereby a post can go viral through a series of retweets and replies.
Joining the conversation
So as a company, what is your role in all this? As we’ve already established, people will talk about your brand whether you get involved in social media or not so what’s the big hurry? Because consumers are craving your interaction – many even expect it. No longer is it acceptable for a company to be perceived as this big, authoritative voice that keeps all its inner mechanics and inside secrets screened off from public view. Brands now have the opportunity to open the gates of their business for everyone to take a peek inside, to create a unique voice and set of personality traits for themselves, and most importantly to start conversations which hadn’t been there before.
But remember, social media is a completely different kettle of fish from your previous communication channels and it should be treated as such. Simply using social media as another outlet for your marketing messages isn’t going to get you anywhere. The aim is to encourage interaction with consumers, so think informal, conversational and insightful with a generous handful of personality and suddenly consumers begin to see you in a different, much more relatable light.
Dealing with complaints
As we’ve discussed, negative feedback about your brand is almost inevitable and will occur whether you’re on social media or not. However, negative tweets about your business will be seen by others, so the manner in which they are responded to will also be public. A company which appears to ignore its disgruntled customers will not be thought of favourably however acknowledging when a customer is unhappy and responding quickly to negative comments can turn even an irritated customer into your biggest fan.
Get social media right and your followers and fans will become your marketers. Not only are they more likely to spread the word about your business, they can provide you with invaluable insights into your audience, becoming your very own on demand focus group. By really listening to your customers, understanding their needs, behaviours and attitudes, brands can use these insights to become more customer driven and improve their service offering so that it is tailored more towards the consumer.
85% of online customers expect businesses to be active in social media
So if you’ve been putting it off up until now, there really aren’t any more excuses. Truth is, people now expect you to be socially engaging and doing it right. A few years ago, while the public where still finding their feet with these channels, it was acceptable to be a bit of a late comer and to take a bit longer to adjust. Nowadays this just isn’t the case and your customers are not going to wait around for you to get up to scratch. Reality is, social media is becoming a staple part of our lives and is only set to get bigger.
How we can help
If you’re still struggling to find your stride with social media then no need to panic – help is at hand. At Mediademon we have in house social media experts who have built up years of experience helping local businesses get the most out of their social activity and can help you with everything from integrated social media campaigns to a simple Facebook design and set up to help you on your social journey.