Some businesses have yet to embrace social media and many more have joined, because it’s the thing to do, yet they aren’t entirely sure how it improves their bottom line. In reality, social networking is one of the best ways to build trust, improve brand recognition, and ultimately drive sales.
Here are some of the biggest ways it makes that possible:
Skyrockets Your Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Social sharing is the 21st Century version of word-of-mouth marketing, and as always, customer recommendations are a business’ best asset, as consumers always trust the suggestion of a “real person” over a sales pitch. And although people are still talking about products in person, it’s no match for the amount of sharing that’s happening online. Just look at viral videos as an example; how else can you reach millions of individuals within mere hours?
While going viral isn’t exactly easy, even average online attention can help you connect with more consumers than ever before. Consider all of the “friends” your customers have online — it could easily be in the hundreds. And while it would likely take them weeks or months to talk to that many people face to face, with social networking they can communicate with all of them in just an instant.
Additionally, if you can get a person of influence (popular blogger, industry leader, someone with a bunch of Twitter followers, etc.) to mention your brand, you can attract an all new audience with folks who, thanks to the influencer’s good word, are already pre-disposed to like your products or service.
Gives You More Involvement Throughout the “Sales Funnel”
No matter how technology advances, the success of a business still largely depends on how effectively it pushes potential customers through the sales funnel. The good news is, with social media, businesses have much more control in the ways consumers progress through that funnel; everything from building awareness, to heightening familiarity, to eventually making a purchase can originate from a social network.
For instance, brands can create pre-release buzz about new products by introducing them on Twitter or Facebook and building excitement about what’s to come. Sometimes it can even help to drag out the release somewhat (à la Apple Inc.) to get people talking; the social media chatter can work folks into a veritable frenzy until they are chomping at the bit to get your product.
But, even if your products don’t excite people in the same way as the latest iPhone, a social network pre-release can still give folks an early introduction and build interest in your brand. And if you’ve done a good job of ordinarily using social media for relationship marketing (not just peddling your stuff) then online users will be interested in what you have to say. Once available, you can continue to grow awareness by using your social page to post pictures and videos, answer questions, and direct visitors to your main site.
What’s more, you don’t have to wait and see how your campaign is playing out, as you can see it happening in real time through things like comments and level of reach. If you notice visitors aren’t following the road to conversion, you can adjust your strategy immediately.
Allows You to Provide Improved Post-Sale Service
What happens after the sale is often the biggest deciding factor in how your company grows. Remember, you need customers to endorse your products to their friends, and there’s no better/easier way to foster the post-sale relationship than through social media.
For example, if instructions help buyers understand your product more, why not post an instructional video on your Facebook page where online users can easily find it and share it with others.
Also, consumers are increasingly turning to social networks to voice complaints (because they know it’s the one place their voice really has power), so if you discover a criticism about your brand on your page or on someone else’s, respond to it as quickly as possible. Apologize, offer a refund, give an explanation, or do whatever it takes to make things better. You have a chance of not only winning back that one customer, but the entire social media audience can see your business cares about its customers and about delivering great products and services.
Even if all your customers seem perfectly pleased, you can keep them engaged by having surveys, holding contests, and offering discounts to loyal fans.
You Can Learn More About Your Customers
For many people, nearly every aspect of their lives and personality is made available on social media. Your business can tap into some of that and learn much more than the basic demographic information gathered with traditional research methods.
You can get this data in many ways including, asking (after all, social networking is about sharing) or gleaning information from the various business and personal sites to which your customers belong. Of course, you don’t have to collect all this data by hand, as there are multiple customer relationship management systems on the market that can do the work for you. These programs will delve into LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. and harvest all pertinent information your customers and potential customers have made known.
You can also use software to monitor blogs, tweets, and posts for specific keywords, such as your business or niche. That way, you can gauge how consumers perceive your brand or if you’re even a part of the online conversation.
Although a follower might not read your Facebook post then immediately click to your webpage to buy something, they just might tell a friend about your brand, research the product, or remember your message later and make an in-store purchase. These delayed reactions and indirect sales can be hard to track, which makes some businesses question the value of social media, but the results are real. And as more people become socially engaged and as Google and Bing continue to promote social search, the impact of social media is only going to intensify.
Even if you don’t consider social media “your thing,” there’s no denying that’s where your customers are at, and you should be there too if you hope to keep your sales expanding.