Social Media Tools Are Essential for Customer Decisions

Guest Contributor: RS Wait, Chtd.
Certified Public Accountants & Management Consultants

Social media tools are essential for customer decisions. Is social media a necessary tool, a serious sales driver? Yes! The corporations are Tweeting, ‘Facebooking’ and working over the reviews pages. So should bleeping and blogging be part of your strategy to reach tech savvy customers’ pockets?

Social media networks move at alarming speed. Its flexibility outstrips traditional advertising in responsiveness and, as a result, sales and revenues through social media strategies are growing.

Take On Your Critics

Many online retailers are using reviews to show good and not-so-good feedback on products or services. Having positive and negative feedback assists buyers with decision making in general, as long as the reviews are genuine. A major part of Amazon’s longterm success has been to list both good and bad comments and low to high customer product ratings. This social media strategy has been adopted by other smart operators, particularly in the retail sector, who understand that by offering a forum for customers to express their criticism and complaints means less of them will be doing the same on public social media sites and blogs. And those issues can be responded to far quicker.

US, UK and European retailers surveyed in an E-consultancy and Bazaarvoice ‘Social Commerce Report’ stated that customer generated reviews greatly improved their credibility and trust, conversion rates and average order value. And with so many extra references to their products and services, their search engine ranking and traffic rose too.

Using social media for announcements or to address critics is another neat trick. A tweet, blog or online forum direct to your enthusiastic audience hits the target and through the dialogue it starts, could even make the headlines.

Buyers for All Business Sizes

What’s interesting about social media is that it has the potential to deliver sales and public relations campaigns equally as effectively for the corner café or suburban travel agent as it can for corporations like Dell, Jetstar and Disney. They are all looking for the same result – ROI.

There are many ways of measuring this. Some companies are focused solely on sales or building loyalty amongst existing customers. Another may use it to create awareness of new products or services, or monitor what people are saying about them.

One certainty is that your competitors are likely to be taking notice, if they’re not already participating. But just like any promotional tool, you need to decide on clear objectives.

Do you need a PR boost or to renew customer loyalty with more personalized contact? Do you need to generate new leads or combat bad press? Do you just want to sell excess stock quickly?

The New Coffee Rush

Twitter works for community building when followers become your advocates or when you tap into the right mindset of buyers. Supporters’ praise can bring in new customers from peer networks, by their pre-qualified and credible endorsements.

US café, The Coffee Groundz, struggled to distinguish itself from several local competitors. As a casual Twitter user, the shop’s owner received a surprise order by ‘tweet’ from a contact. From there, a Coffee Groundz Twitter community started, with the café since becoming a gathering place for Twitterers. Sales and customer loyalty have soared, with a reputation for being a hip, tech-savvy meeting place. Twitter deals and instore events are common, with an Obama inauguration party a highlight.

Destination: Web Traffic

As a prospecting tool, social networks like Facebook can drive traffic to your website in limitless creative ways, converting curiosity or interactivity to sales. Travel Channel created an online trivia game based on cities of the world where players score points by inviting friends to participate. The resulting click-throughs to the company’s travel website have soared.

Starting a conversation is a very effective social media PR objective that builds loyalty, allows exceptional feedback and brings web traffic. SMEs can use in-house bloggers, delegate to an agency, or “sponsor” an established media or peer blogger to start a conversation with a target audience.

Power Shift

Social media first revolutionized how we socialize with the spin-off changing how we consume. The technology will constantly change, but the marketing power shift to buyers is here to stay. So, join in the conversation before your competition does and find out what your audiences are saying. Next determine your objectives – sales, relationship building, PR, etc. – then choose the social media tools that are right for you and how you will measure success.

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