What should brands be thinking about in the second half of the year to take their social media marketing to the next level and create standout digital customer experiences?
What many traditional marketers don’t know is that the world of social media marketing is changing rapidly. The ways brands use social to engage with customers are not the same today as they were a year ago.
That’s due in part to the rise of new technologies and platforms, the endless stream of data we’ve got access to and the growing consumer expectations that keep us all on our toes.
We’ve also seen some massive shifts within organizations themselves, where a customer-centric mentality across every touch point is quickly becoming the status quo. The great thing is: Social is at the heart of it all.
We’ve officially entered an era where social media marketing has matured. However, the question marketers need to ask themselves is, “Has my organization matured alongside social media?”
More often than not, the answer will be “no.” In fact, research by Lithium (my employer) shows that as many as 98 percent of brands still use social media to broadcast to their customers, but not truly engage with them; this basically undermines the entire value proposition of social as a two-way street.
So, if your brand is still operating within the “dark ages” of social, don’t fret. There’s never been a better time to think about how social can work harder for your business — and actually execute on it. Here are four things you can do to get moving in the right direction.
1. Go beyond listening
Remember not so long ago when we all talked about “listening” as the bona fide game-changer of social? Well, not much has changed, except for one important thing: “Listening” involves a lot more than just listening. Mind-blowing, right?
Listening implies that there are two (or more) parties involved in a conversation. Sure, go ahead and listen, but be ready to engage — whether it’s in response to a potential customer reaching out with a question, a brand loyalist giving you a positive shout-out or an upset patron screaming from the rooftops about a bad experience.
For too long, many of us have treated social as a reactive platform. It’s way more than that. Brands must be proactive on social at all times. Every time someone engages with your brand on social, even if it’s indirectly, it’s your responsibility to make that person’s voice heard — and to make it known.
It’s about personalizing the customer experience by engaging prospects, customers, influencers, and even competitors, in conversation. It’s also a way to get a temperature check on consumer sentiment, to see what topics related to your brand are spiking, and even to pinpoint who could eventually become advocates and influencers.
This is why listening is so important — but you must take action on what you hear.
2. Scale your engagement
Listening and responding to every customer across every channel is hard. But it doesn’t have to be — and fortunately, there’s a whole slew of tools and technologies available today that can do the heavy lifting for you.
All too often, I hear from our customers that, over time, they’ve managed to piece together a number of platforms like a patchwork quilt to get through the day-to-day. And as teams grow — both internally and externally via agencies and consultants — all those technologies can quickly get in the way and slow you down.
That’s where social media management tools come to the rescue. Such tools can help cover all the bases, from social media marketing and social response to giving your teams a central dashboard where they can schedule and publish content, route inbound queries to the appropriate customer service representative and listen broadly to what’s being said about your brand across the web.
When you think about it, scaling your engagement is really all about simplification (And who doesn’t want that?).
3. Accelerate brand awareness
Traditional advertising taught us the value — and limitations — of paid media. Social, on the other hand, has fewer rules. Brands can reach consumers through social in a variety of ways: paid, earned, owned and shared content.
The truth is, there is no silver bullet for reaching and engaging consumers via social. Each media type plays a role in the process. The savviest brands will take a multichannel approach and make sure they engage with customers on the channel of their choosing.
More importantly, though, is being smart about what you publish and how you go about publishing it. You must be clear on who your audience is and use data to target them with precision across channels. You also need to understand what they want and expect from you in order to deliver relevant content that your target audience wants to engage with. Then, it’s just a matter of using data to inform when and where you publish that content.
The end goal here is to get the right content in front of the right consumer on the right channel or device (or both) at a time when they are most likely to want to engage with that content. Doing so improves the relevance of your message while maximizing reach.
4. Unite people, processes & technology
As much as we’d like to think that technology alone can save the day, we can’t forget that there is an entire ecosystem of people and processes that truly bring it to life. Winning in social means mastering the balance between human and machine: figuring out which processes and interactions can be automated versus those that absolutely require human interaction.
There’s never a time when any piece of the social marketing puzzle should fall out of place: the masterminds behind your social media efforts — from data scientists to digital marketing experts, and everything in between; the processes that make it possible to leverage data to maximize impact and gain insights; and the underlying technologies that enable more efficient and effective operations at scale.
Everything is interconnected. The brands that understand the importance of people, processes and technology working in unison are those that most successfully meet — and oftentimes exceed — expectations along the customer journey.
Start taking your social media marketing to the next level — now
The primary goal of any marketer is threefold: to acquire new customers, serve current customers and, over time, grow a more loyal customer base. Social can play a crucial role in achieving these goals. The brands that unlock its power stand to win.
To do this, you must get your brand out in front of your target consumers through a combination of relevant and engaging paid, earned, owned and shared content. Then, it’s absolutely critical that you listen and respond to every customer across every channel, which can be tough — unless you have the right platforms and technologies in place to effectively scale your social media management efforts.
And, last but not least, you can’t forget that social media marketing doesn’t operate on autopilot; you must have the people, processes and technologies behind your operations seamlessly integrated to ensure that no stone is left unturned along a customer’s journey with your brand. That’s your recipe for social media success.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.