Moving from Customer Loyalty to Customer Engagement via Social Media

By guest blogger Jennifer Birch

We live in a cynical world. No one believes in politicians anymore, the media portrays teachers and doctors as incompetent, the media itself is mistrusted, and even the humble bank manager is reviled since the crash of 2008. If you’re trying to build a business, this situation can make things difficult. A good relationship with your customers is key for any business, and this must rest on that rarest of commodities, trust.

The Nielsen’s 2013 Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages study showed that 69% of the respondents from 58 countries, said that they trust branded websites’ advertorials, followed by 68% of them trusting online customer opinions. As the world becomes more digital, the need to have a stronger connection with your current and potential clients and intense online reputation management via websites and social media is ever more critical. In this post, we’ll discuss how you can increase your customers’ loyalty by engaging them on your official social pages.

Social Media Connection

With social media, businesses have the opportunity to talk to client and potential customers, directly. We are almost taken back to the days when most businesses saw their clients in their store and could speak to them face-to-face. Almost, because social media is not face to face, but nonetheless it does allow an unprecedented amount of communication. In creating trust and connecting with customers online, Brent Gleeson of Forbes noted the following ways to make that happen:

1. Be transparent with issues and how you plan to resolve them

2. Present your company culture by presenting your leadership capabilities

3. Quickly respond to clients’ concerns online

4. Add fun when engaging with clients through online content

5. Show that you care more about clients than yourself

Downside of Communication

With the best of intentions, even top brands, have one way or another failed in some of their attempts in connecting with their customers using social media. In April, digital company Lets Get Wise on Twitter (@letsgetwise) featured a post by Forbes entitled ‘How To Screw Up On Social Media.’ The article written by Guy Clapperton, featured top brands of today that screwed up on the social pages. One recent high profile example was McDonald’s and their ‘#McDStories,’ where they featured stories of their suppliers online. The plan backfired because of how customers responded, and McDonald’s garnered complaints and even satirical comments for using the hashtag.

Kenneth Cole was also featured after they tweeted saying “Millions are in an uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collections is now available online.” The company was condemned due to this incident, and the clothing line apologized immediately due to the incident.

Beyond Communication to Customer Engagement

Going beyond conversation, a more robust measure of loyalty is customer engagement, where customers connect more deeply with your products or services, and evangelize their connection to you. As you look to move beyond simple communicating to engaging more deeply with customers, consider the three core benefits of increased engagement with your customers:

1. Engaged customers refer other customers and speak up on behalf of your products

2. Engaged customers buy more and a greater variety of products

3. Engaged customers are loyal to products and/or services they like

Constant and Consistent Communication

There are times when social media marketing doesn’t work, broadly when a company doesn’t devote enough resources and research to understand new trends in social media, and what they mean to your customers. The best way to get around that is to constantly track and update yourselves on what people are saying about your brand online, as well as consistently sharing with your followers on the social media about your plans in the future so they understand your vision. If people are tweeting about your brand, you must also tweet back and retweet what they said. Respond to their questions, and keep an effort to check on your accounts daily. This keeps you informed and your conversation fresh and responsive.

To make the most of social media, companies would do well to ensure that as many of their staff as possible are involved in customer engagement in these online channels. You need as many internal ambassadors (your employees) as possible to maintain a steady drumbeat of communication. Without too much extra work, it should be possible to greatly increase output.

Maximizing Social Media for Engagement

Here are several additional recommendations to consider to maximize your level of engagement through social media.

1. Personal connection.

It is vital to make the most of the ability of social media to engage on a personal level. When people get in touch, respond to them. Remember that no one wants to interact with faceless auto-bots online. It’s best to personalize your discussion with your followers by using their social media handles (or names), and be informative and helpful in assisting their concerns.

2. Proper timing.

Always consider the proper timing when publishing content. Kara Cassella wrote on (editor’s note: now defunct) that you must check your Google Analytics on when you have more traffic per account. Usually Facebook gets more shares from 9am-11am, while Twitter from 10am-12pm, and clicks on Facebook and Twitter are higher around 3pm-5pm.

3. Invest in tools.

Maximize tools that will help you in managing multiple accounts, and sorting information relevant to your business such as HootSuite. It can manage multiple social accounts in a single dashboard, track conversations about your brand, and measure campaign results necessary when formulating strategies to engage customers (What ticks them off? What they love the most?) Often, it comes with a post scheduler that also assists you in ensuring your social page content is updated.

4. Visual connection.

Continue using visuals to enhance your story. As Kissmetrics’s 2014 data said, Facebook photos garner more likes (54%), comments (104%), and clicks (84%), than videos, status with bare text, or even links, emphasizing the power of the picture for engaging content.

(Photo from International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center via Flickr Creative Commons)

About the Author

Jennifer Birch has been following the recent trends in online marketing. She believes that adding a little of your personal touch in everything you do can make your output shine from the rest. Contact Jenni on Twitter.

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