5 Effective Ways to Use Social Media for Your Business

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 what to buy. As the social media landscape is constantly evolving, marketers need to be aware of how this can help them. They need to understand what consumers are looking for and how they search for it. What influences them to take their final decision. It is the inherent quality of social media to carry user-generated content (UGC), which makes it so popular worldwide.

Why is 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 because it comes from actual users of the brand's products/ services rather than the brand itself. Hence, UGC is an essential tool that must be utilized by marketers to leverage their brand perceptions and image within the target market.

Nielsen’s latest study, Global Trust in Advertising, reports that 92% of consumers around the world trust family and friend recommendations over any form of advertising, while online consumer reviews are the second most trusted.

How to leverage social media for business gains
UGC is an essential tool that must be utilized by marketers to leverage their brand perceptions and image within the target market.

1. Engage your leads and customers 
One of the top benefits of social media is its huge impact on engaging consumers. Where traditional advertising mediums such as print, outdoor and television are one-way forms of communication, social media brings a unique approach to establishing a dialogue between the brand and consumer. Marketers have constantly used direct mailers and telephone to build such an interaction, but these largely fail due to the lack of consumer interest, as 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.

2. Track your leads and customers
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.

3. After-sales
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.

4. Loyalists and detractors
As brand ambassadors are so crucial to a social media strategy, CRM tools are highly useful in identifying potential loyalists. Furthermore, 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.

5. Targeted campaigns
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 most cost effective and targeted social platform.

A combination of social media and CRM software is crucial for successful marketing. Implementing CRM 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 solutions do 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.