Success on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the many other emerging social sites is all about the approach. A study by IBM reveals that many companies are missing an opportunity to utilize social media channels to drive sales growth, because of a misunderstanding of what consumers want out of those channels. A majority of consumers say the top reasons they interact with companies via social sites are to receive discounts and make purchases, yet companies rank these as the least likely reasons customers will follow them. Instead, businesses overestimate consumers’ desire to interact with them on a personal level. It is true that social networking began as a personal communication tool, but the integration of business and branding have transformed these platforms and now demand a new code of conduct.
Social Site Conduct
While the publication of personal information online has led us all to partake in a little social stalking of friends and family members from time to time, the expectation of businesses sharing social space is different. As SocialBeat columnist, Laura Horton, explains, “Every company has its own rules regarding social media marketing, but keep in mind that social networking is a person-to-person tool. Few people enjoy hard-sell marketing ploys on social networking sites, and they certainly don’t want to feel as if they are being stalked by your company.” Below are a few simple rules to follow, in order to keep it personal, but in a professional manner.
Be helpful, not pushy. Tweets, statuses, and other moment by moment updates can keep you in the loop about what your customers are doing, what they like, and what they are looking for. If they are nearby or you offer a product or service that fits their liking or their need, social sites are a great way to make an introduction; but that’s all, don’t make a pitch. It is about establishing a relationship.
Be careful what you say. Nothing will turn a customer off faster than if you indicate you know more about them than they would like. It’s true that people put unnecessary and sometimes too much information on social sites. However, when introducing yourself or performing a transaction, refrain from bringing up any and all information you have found. As Horton suggests, “Use what you’ve learned as background information,” and business intelligence to help in making a sale, or at least a connection.
Be a thought leader. While you may think sharing news and updates on your brand alone is all your customers want to know when interacting with you online, you are wrong. They are looking for you to prove your knowledge and experience in the industry, and expect you to be a thought leader on associated topics of your brand.
Reach out when you see active interest in your brand. You don’t want to be too pushy, but if customers are actively seeking information on your brand, let them know you are there to help. While the customer’s inquiry might be about a general product, there’s no harm in letting them know how your product line can fulfill their needs, and by providing a quick link you can reel them in as a customer. Horton emphasizes, however, “social media is about interacting with others and expressing ideas, not about making a sales pitch,” so tread lightly.
Stay on top of social marketing best practices. As more people join social media sites and new features are added, the code of conduct is always evolving. Businesses using social media in their marketing plan should stay current on best practices and trends. It’s important to have a strategy, and more important to keep this strategy updated with the DOs and DON’Ts of social marketing, especially when looking to earn customers’ trust and not creep them out.
This article was adapted from an original piece on SocialBeat.com.