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Feeling Connected

Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Monday, 24 October 2011

Social Media Marketing is Like Dating … Real Serious Dating

“You think I'm gorgeous, you want to kiss me... You want to hug me... You want to love me... You want to hug me... You want to smooch me... You want to…” – Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock), Miss Congeniality (2000), Castle Rock Entertainment

Why has social media – blogs, social sites, chat rooms, discussion forums, YouTube, microblogs – grown so rapidly, become so popular?

Pretty simple really…people want to establish their identity, feel connected.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but even companies, products, services need identity…need connection…need definition…need love.

Just like the rest of us, without it they wither, they die.

So, since you’ve “all” jumped on the social media scene, company management wants to be there with you…to learn from you, help you.

O.K., so they would also like to sell you something…if it’s something you really want, really need of course. Company managers -- they’re people too -- understand there are a lot of benefits to social media activities.

Why You’re There – Companies see a lot of good business reasons for entering the social media arena. But they all center on the customer, not on wholesale outreach, marketing pushes.

That’s why everyone wants to “own” the company’s social media program – marketing, advertising, HR, PR.

They want to be the ones who get credit for reaching out, making a bunch of friends who tell other friends who all buy something.

What’s missing?

The customer!

The sheer volume of information available has shifted the balance of power from companies to consumers.

Suffering from information overload, people become skeptical of company driven efforts and make their buying decisions independently, based on the research of “others” and their own research.

People who buy something and have a good experience ro tell other people.

The World Condensed – Social media programs are programs of one--one person interacting with one person. That person tells one person and very quickly, the word spreads – efficiently, effectively, economically, credibly.

The best, most powerful marketing/sales tool companies have is satisfied customers.

Word of mouth leads to 50+% of most purchasing decisions.

It beats ads…literature…trade shows…demos…publicity…you name it, hands down!

The very best sources, according to Forrester research, are family members or friends.

Then, according to ORC (Opinion Research Corp), they check:
· customer reviews/ratings – 57%
· blogs/forums – 50%
· online videos – 48%
· social sites – 43%
· RSS feeds – 27%
· Microblogs – 8%

Yep…customer-generated information…the brain trust in the office, mom/dad/kids, guy down the street.

Company generated content is believed “a little” but input from real people, real users carry a lot more weight.

Who Do You Trust – When people want to get credible information about a company, its products/services, support; they turn to friends--either friends in person or friends on the Web. As a last resort, they’ll partially believe the company’s “ads.” Source -- EXPO

As Gracie observed, “betrayal implies an action, you just stood there.”

Instead of having an elaborate social media outreach effort, companies need to spend their time, money, effort ensuring that their existing customers are satisfied – maybe even insanely happy.

Then, they’ll tell everyone else and the fever will grow.

Loyal customers do the company’s marketing/sales pro bono. They defend the company/products online/off.

These folks are the ones who keep firms from becoming commodity sellers…just ask Jobs!

You drive customer loyalty with customer service.

And according to Forrester’s Zach Hofer-Shall, customer service isn’t a department, a job function. Every employee has skin in the game.

In a time when we’re seeing more cheap store brands being offered, the team goal is to secure lifelong brand loyalty…win new customers and keep them for a lifetime.
That’s not easy, because you have to:
· offer excellent, immediate customer care
· build your brand as a customer-centric business
· solve problems quickly.

According to ORC, companies are welcome in their communities as long as you follow the rules (their rules):
· 51% said companies should have a presence but only interact with consumers as needed or by request
· 34% feel companies should be in social media and interact regularly
· 15% think companies should sit in the balcony or stay home

The Sloan Center of Internet Retailing developed a set of recommendations that work for online/brick-and-mortar resellers/manufacturers, B2B/B2C firms.

Step one is tough – listen -- monitor and analyze what is being said about you/your products online. Whether you believe it or not, like it or not they’re talking.

Sometimes it “feels” like the only people who are using social media are the ones who totally hate the company/the product.

Most of the online feedback, online reviews are positive; you know, the fun ones to read, pass around, show your boss.

Not All Bad - You would swear the reviews all come from people with rotten experiences; but the truth is, most of the reviews are good or at least neutral.

Cherish them, because the negatives sell more papers, get more eyeballs, get more clicks.

If there’s a problem, an issue, resolve it in realtime.

If it’s a misunderstanding, poor application of the product/service or operator error, respond it with the same sense of urgency.

Remember, rhe customer invested the time, money, effort in your product/service; so within reason, focus on making him/her a fan.

Usually, solving the problem/the issue is best done offline to determine and solve it 1:1.

Do it right and you’ve won another fan that will spread the word.

When you receive good inputs, ideas from users, tell ‘em so. Recognize their contributions in their online community.

Then “borrow” the idea, product inputs, recommendations.

Along the way, you’ll get a few bumps, bruises; but you also have a WW product/market research team, without all the overhead.

Do it right and you win fans that will spread the word to their friends who will tell their friends who will…

But the online world isn’t all peaches and cream.

OMG – Being attacked online and in realtime (especially for the world to see) is not for newbies. As quickly as possible, move the discussion offline; and if it’s a discussion that can’t end well…cut your losses.

Some battles you can’t win.

As Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, said, “The customer is sometimes wrong. We don’t carry those sorts of customers. We write to them and say, ‘Fly somebody else. Don’t abuse our people.”

If the individual is wrong or beyond reason/beyond hope, keep the discussion on an adult level. When reason/logic come up short, thank them for being a customer and wish them well.

You’re better of without them.

Step two – experiment. Web 2.0 and social media are so new there are no absolute rights or wrongs (despite what self-proclaimed experts will tell you). Make them small experiments, because big experiments can fail big. Give your customers a place – blog or user feedback forum where they can to offer feedback about your products and services.

Keep it open, keep it professional. Real users use products/services far differently than the engineers/designers, even when the user is an engineer/designer.

Sometimes they can give you an “ah ha” moment. Other times, new market opportunities.

They often give you insight into product enhancements or tomorrow’s hot, sexy big seller.

Step three -- apply the good experiments big time. For those that don’t, remember what Edison said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Finally – don’t stop. Constantly strengthen your relationship with your best customers. Develop new/different ideas, share thoughts/concepts, listen.

Blow off your old mass-market advertising thinking.

It doesn’t work when 80% of your business comes from 20% of the folks and they have a strong input that sways over the other 80% of the market.

Does good hands-on-the-keyboard, swipescreen work?

According to a Cone consumer study:
· 74% had a more positive impression of the company/brand
· 72% had a stronger connection with company/product
· 70% willing to engage with company/brand
· 68% felt they were being better served by company/brand
· 64% had a better opinion of the company/brand when a friend had contact with them
· 52% decided to follow, friend, fan the company/brand

For most companies, social media is still so new that it’s an uncoordinated mess.

Organizations struggle to develop a strategic policy/program, implement measurement tools/systems.

Departments – marketing, advertising, sales, HR, PR – elbow each other to manage/control the new media turf.

It reminds us of a waiter we knew at New York City’s Stage Deli.

He didn’t bother listening to the TV/radio weather report.

“When I want to know the weather I stick my hand out the window,” he said. “If it gets wet it’s raining. If it freezes, it’s cold. Then I go to work.”

No one department is going to manage, control, change social media in your organization.

It’s better to look, listen, go to work.

When everyone is doing it right, your whole team will be pleasantly surprised like Gracie Hart, “Oh my gosh, it's the crown!”

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