Do you remember how we made our purchase decisions just a decade ago? Most of the times, our purchase decisions were influenced by TV / Radio Ads, Billboards, Newspapers, Magazines or Referrals coming through friends & family. The worldwide Internet penetration has completely altered the entire picture. According to a report by Statista, more than 2 billion people actively use social media networks. ROPO is a new term that is coined and refers to the trend that has come up in buying behavior of customers. It stands for Research Online & Purchase Offline. Today’s consumers make their purchase decisions only after checking online reviews, social media channels or the website of a product or a service.
Social Media has proved to be one of the most important entities for businesses to manage when it comes to Brand Management, User Engagement or Community Management.
Stats that highlight the importance of Social Media Management
The number of worldwide social media users is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2018. (Statista)
90% of young adults (ages 18 to 29) use social media. (Pew Research Center)
There are several research and survey reports that assert about the high usage of Social Media platforms. Moreover, top-notch executives and leaders agree that Social Media can make or break their business.
So let’s understand what Social Media Management is all about and how businesses can manage them to create a brand, acquire customers and improve engagement.
What does Social Media Management involve?
1. Channel Selection & Management
A jack of all is a master of none is an old adage that fits perfectly for marketers who try to be on every social media channel that is available on the internet. This goal is definitely a hard nut to crack, rather we should aim at aligning social media goals with our Digital Strategy. This is essential as it would give an insight into customer personas including their challenges, behaviors, likes, dislikes and demographics (age of the customer, location, job title or income). Persona analysis would also suggest the social media channels where your customers are mostly found. Using all this information Social Media Managers can strategize to start slow and focus on few channels first before moving on to the rest. For Instance – You might strategize to use Facebook to primarily engage with employees, journalists, media, and external public. And you might leverage LinkedIn to connect and engage with current or potential customers, promote your services or blog to drive traffic to your website.
2. Community Management
Social media communities are groups of people collaborating and conversing on common interests or business related goals. Businesses must leverage social communities to gain customer attention and boost website traffic. This can be achieved with the help of content that your target audience would like to consume and share across social networks. Community managers can be engaged by businesses to create and maintain communities who can strike meaningful conversations around the products and business offerings. This helps in managing a brand’s voice in the external public forums and in increasing a brand’s credibility. For Instance – Quora is a very popular social community that propels customers to go on these discussion forums in case they have any question on any topic.
3. User Engagement
User engagement can be understood as a continuous series of interactions between the business and the customer, which happen through several channels such as face to face, email, or social media. Increasing user engagement is usually understood by marketers as challenging because it involves great effort in getting the right set of audience on your social channels. There is a different angle suggested by Ashok Patro, Vice President, Analytics Services at TO THE NEW. He says Social Media Engagement is Not a Strategy. He suggests to look at engagement as a tool that can be used to measure and achieve the business objectives which can be to increase product awareness, increase sales online, building a fanbase before a product launch, new market entry, etc.
A report by Dimensional Research, stated that customers who encounter a poor customer service interaction were 50% more likely to share their bad experience on social media. Businesses that embrace engagement strategy, leverage such scenarios to gain credibility and trust by proactively solving such issues and responding promptly on social media. Another important consideration here would be – ‘QUALITY’ not ‘QUANTITY’ of posts that will define user engagement.
4. Content Marketing and Amplification
Content marketing is all about attracting your target audience to your owned channels that can be your social media channels, website or landing pages. Content refers to blogs, whitepapers, ebooks, videos, podcasts, press releases etc. that is aimed at attracting potential customer’s attention, gaining their trust and loyalty by offering both unique and valuable content. Your content should talk about the customer’s challenges and the ways in which your products or services can help in solving these problems. Content Amplification or promotion comes after content creation, it is all about getting more eyes on your content. Why is content amplification important? There is already humongous content available online and if you rely only on organic ways of getting seen, it is very unlikely that your content will get expected visitors.
5. Lead Generation
Social Media was all about branding in its earlier days. Gradually, the user base increased and it became a lead generation engine that helped businesses to bring people into their sales funnel. And now it’s all about gaining customers attention through gated content that brings targeted customers in the sales funnel. Social Media is highly useful in lead generation process as it makes sharing content to a large user base fairly easier. If your content is really exciting to your target audience, then it would more likely be seen as a lead magnet. The form gated content usually provides you with data that contains the name, email address, contact no and the problem statement that they usually share through the form.
5. Online Reputation Management (ORM)
Online reputation management was thought to be relevant only for digital businesses. However that’s not the case now, it is imperative for every business to maintain a clean and credible online presence. Moreover, referrals are a major source of getting new business. As per New York Times, 65% of your new business comes from referrals. Businesses need to ensure they are constantly captivating their customers and compelling them to find out more about their brand. This will largely include developing engaging content such as blogs, articles and creating long-term content calendars for sustainability over a period of time.
Social Media Analytics has emerged as a key focus area in recent years. Social Media Analytics Tools provide information on a brand’s customers, prospects, products and competitors, enabling businesses to apply analytics capabilities to the content generated on social channels. Social Media Analytics Tools can help you to unlock valuable insights with real-time social media monitoring.
In a nutshell, if you are a startup or an established enterprise, it is crucial for you to have a presence on social media channels to maintain your brand’s online reputation and build a strong relationship with your brand advocates. While Social Media can be used by brands for lead generation, however, that should not be the only goal. With that objective it will become very business oriented and that really takes the ‘sharing’ out of the ‘social sharing’ equation.