Social media has opened up a plethora of new ways to build meaningful relationships with your fans and followers. From sharing blog posts to posting behind-the-scenes videos, your fans are able to start to conceive the ‘human side’ of your company, rather than being simply a faceless brand from which they purchase products and/or services.
Of course, that’s the thing about social and one that some businesses appear to miss: it’s called SOCIAL media for a reason. It’s not enough to simply get together a profile page and post content, unless you’re an international brand or regularly produce viral content, you have to get social and work for engagement.
However, this engagement will only become meaningful – and indeed maximised and maintained – if you return it. Despite all the various means through which you can utilise social media to stimulate your fans’ interest in your brand, the most meaningful means of engagement at your disposal as a marketer is in your willingness to build conversations with your engaged followers.
Of course, it’s not always simple to gain engagement in the first instance. It takes work and a certain amount of hard manual labour to actually gain followers who are willing to interact – if you don’t first, they never will either. While many marketers use scheduling software to take the ‘grunt’ out of social media management, there’s no substitution for a personal thank you or a well thought-out reply to a question.
If you want a genuine relationship with your fans, then you must engage and build your online community through conversation – and this means being open and transparent and harboring no hidden agenda. This will lead to better relationships, and will almost undoubtedly convert into higher sales and bigger turnover; below are a few tips for how to go about it.
Use Your Fans’ First Names
People instantly feel a deeper connection with you when you address them by their first name, and the same holds true for online conversations on social media. The use of first names in conversation engages the fans on a personal and human level, and this can do wonders for their feeling of value.
Indeed, the same goes for when you sign off a comment yourself. Use your first name, if appropriate to do so, or otherwise the name of your team. This works because your followers will feel like they are connecting with a real person, rather than just a faceless corporation, and indeed helps to build trust throughout your network.
User Generated Content (UGC)
One of the beauties of social media is that everything you do, your fans can too, and this applies to the use of your products. You’ll probably find that some of your fans will be eager to show you (and thus the rest of your following) exactly how they are using your product, either by a series of photographs or a video. These, in fact, can be even more powerful than spending lots of money on advertising, and of course infinitely more valuable in this respect.
There are other ways too to encourage the production of UGC. It may be appropriate to your business, for instance, to ask them to post photos of their work desk, or the view outside their office window.
Another thing that you can do is ask for reviews on your Facebook page and Google Places. Of course, you do risk bad reviews, sometimes it’s inevitable and we’ve all had them – my business received one after a user left spam on the page and was asked to remove it. However, it disappeared soon after I appealed to Facebook about it with details so I assume that the social network removed it, despite no communication to confirm this. My point is though is that if you’re a reputable company, you’ve nothing to fear from user reviews aside and they can really help prove your company ethics as it gives you an opportunity to address customer issues in an area where you can really prove that your customer service rocks!
Ask Fans For Input
Since your fans will almost by definition be users of your services or product (or at least the potential users of it) then it makes sense to ask them for their input as to how you should proceed with your future offerings, and indeed ask for feedback on your past ones.
This sort of feedback will be invaluable, especially if you have managed to cultivate a friendly, open and honest community through which your followers feel as if they can trust you. These fans are your targeted audience precisely, so by understanding how they engage with your product and how they think it could be improved will reflect exactly those who are the most likely to be purchasing it in the future.
Personalization is something that’s become popular in marketing circles for a good reason – people respond, so ensure that you tailor offers for each social network. You can also use remarketing to target those fans who have visited your website. Perhaps you’ve found that some fans have been to the site and abandoned the shopping cart. Using Facebook Web Custom Audiences you can add a simple tracking code to your site and then retarget specific groups with specialized adverts and special offers.
Social media has been a real game-changer for business and Facebook is the biggest of them all. Marketing on Facebook can be tricky, especially when it comes to reach, and it can be expensive for advertising. However, remarketing works well on Facebook and is something to consider and if you really interact with your audience and gain that magic engagement, you’ll be flying in no time.
When it comes to the other social networks, the same basic principles apply, aside from perhaps LinkedIn. Twitter of course doesn’t give you much space to play with so it pays to be succinct and Pinterest can be a great conversation starter simply because it’s so visual. Twitter advertising and analytics are highly useful too, especially the former, which I find to be much more effective than Facebook’s. Pinterest has also recently introduced all-new analytics, which are much more powerful than the previous ones and can really help you to target your users effectively by showing you exactly what they’re looking at and re-pinning.
Social media has given small businesses especially an opportunity to connect with a large audience and boost business. The best thing about it is that unless you advertise, it is of course free. Whilst it’s ideal to have the budget to advertise, some of don’t, so we can instead use the free tools at our disposal to enable growth and really get to know our customers on level we’ve never managed before.