The social media landscape has exploded within the last decade. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have brought about a revolutionary change in consumer interactions. Social media is the new marketplace where customers discuss products, gain feedback, air their opinions and even make the ultimate decision of buying. As the social media landscape is constantly evolving, marketers need to be aware of how this can help them understand what consumers are looking for, how they search for this and what influences them to take their final decision. It is the inherent quality of social media to carry user generated content which makes it so popular amongst users.
Why is User-Generated Content (UGC) so critical for today’s marketers? The answer lies in two words – reliability and credibility. Amongst the variety of brands available in the market and the different claims made by each, consumers are looking for a reliable source to simply tell them what works and what does not. UGC is considered more reliable and credible as it comes from the actual user of the brand rather than the brand itself. According to Nielsen’s latest study, Global Trust in Advertising, 92% of consumers around the world trust family and friend recommendations over any form of advertising, while online consumer reviews are the second most reliable. UGC is an essential tool that must be utilized by marketers to leverage their brand perceptions and image within the target market.
One of the top benefits of social media is its power to engage consumers. Where traditional advertising mediums such as print, outdoor and television are a one-way form of communication, social media brings in a unique approach of establishing a dialogue between the brand and consumer. Marketers have constantly used direct mailers and telephones to build such an interaction, but these largely fail due to the lack of consumer interest because they carry a business purpose. On the other hand, social networks are innately just that – social. This means that the consumer is already present and active on the platform. All the brand needs to do is give a small nudge without shouting out the message.
Getting social is not just about managing a Facebook or Twitter account. The added advantage of social over traditional media channels is the ability to track brand messages created by users. The proliferation of social media means that the consumer is no longer a passive onlooker. They are actively engaged in voicing their opinions. Tracking aims to discover brand comments and mentions by consumers. But its scope is much more qualitative than quantitative in nature. It is not just about knowing the ratio of positive versus negative comments. It is about analyzing the actual content to understand such consumer variables as perceptions, attitudes, emotions and opinions vis-à-vis the brand.
The role of social media does not end with the sale. Marketers often struggled to maintain the delicate post-sales connection through tools like customer care agents and feedback forms. Large amounts of marketing budget are spent on research to understand and implement retention. Social media offers the most convenient way to stay connected with customers post purchase and maintain a profitable relationship with them. As long as this contact is engaging and/or valuable to the consumer in some way, it can be used to up-sell and cross-sell products.
5. Social media integration with CRM solutions
As mentioned above, social media is fast emerging as the ultimate tool to maintain contact with the customer and enhance customer relationships. As CRM aims to understand and respond to customer needs, its integration with social media is critical to get a 360 degree view of customer experience and that too on real-time basis. Most of the social media platforms provide APIs which can be used easily to integrate with any CRM solution.
6. Loyalists and detractors
Just the way brand ambassadors are so crucial to a social media strategy, CRM solutions are highly useful in identifying potential loyalists. Furthermore, social CRM can provide valuable customer insight to help establish a two-way communication facilitating their engagement and positive feedback. Traditionally, marketers have always been on the lookout for opinion leaders who can become brand ambassadors. With the use of tracking software on social media, the identification of such opinion leaders as well as followers has become much more efficient and less complicated. On the other side of the spectrum, it is also crucial to identify the critics and reply to their comments and critique in a professional manner.
One of the main objectives of CRM is consumer segmentation for highly focused marketing. CRM databases can be used to understand the different types of customers present in the social environment and divide them into clusters based on likes, needs, wants, online activities, attitude towards the brand and much more. Once these groups are isolated, each can be targeted with a different social media marketing tactic to increase likelihood of response. Instead of spending considerable amounts of marketing budget on high OTS advertising spaces and cumbersome direct communications, marketers can use the more cost effective and targeted social platform.
A combination of social media and CRM solutions is crucial for successful marketing. Implementing CRM software into the social strategy will help brands deal with their clients in a consistent and pre-planned manner. It is important for marketers to have a well defined strategy in place before going all in – a strategy that integrates across all channels and all marketing tools to ensure that a unified brand image is presented to the customer. CRM expertise does this by ensuring that social media is used within the larger context of organizational reputation and company policies. This is the only way to ensure a successful social effort which brings in high returns on investment.