Where Everyone Knows Your Name
In the past, companies who wanted to engage with customers and prospects did so with face-to-face interactions as the person visited the business. Whether the neighborhood grocery or car dealership, relationships were the basis of most interactions. The better you knew your customers, the greater the chance they would stay loyal.
Today’s businesses are no different, although how we engage has dramatically evolved. Most companies want to have a relationship with their customers. After all, nothing has changed in how customers want to feel appreciated and understood. Yet fewer people are physically entering stores as they do much of their shopping online. A recent survey found shoppers now make 51 percent of their purchases on the web and 44 percent of those are from a smartphone. This presents a challenge for companies trying to get to know their customers in an effort to build a personal relationship.
Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
The desire to engage with customers despite their physical location has given rise to creative marketing strategies. Think interactive websites, email campaigns and social media. These tactics, however, have one inherent flaw. They are aimed to appeal to the masses, not the individual. Relationships, on the other hand, are all about the personal. Even with these more modern marketing channels, companies are missing out on the critical person-to-person interactions.
Websites and email campaigns may have their place, but today’s consumer is looking for real engagement. Mass emails or directing a prospect to a company website can only go so far. Consumers are using social media and messaging apps to communicate with each other and increasingly with brands because it enables a more individual interaction.
Social media gives consumers a platform to share ideas, thoughts, suggestions and unfortunately, grievances with a brand. Smart organizations are consistently honing their social media prowess by using software to help them monitor social media conversations for brand or product mentions. Keeping tabs on what’s being said and who is saying it enables organizations to be more alert and engaged where they can intercept both the good and the bad for proactive responses.
How can companies personalize the social media experience? By getting creative with how it is used.
The Potential of Social Media
The social media potential is enormous and goes way beyond gaining followers and fans. Organizations can use social media to pull in new followers who may have never mentioned the brand before in a post and engage in ongoing dialogue with followers. The longer followers are engaged, the more opportunities the brand has at converting them to loyal customers.
Product launches, for example, are the ideal environment to spur new social media activity. Instead of simply launching a product and announcing it via social media, a company can invite consumers to participate in various aspects of the development, launch and marketing of the product.
Lay’s did just that in their flavor campaign. Instead of brainstorming new flavors from the boardroom, they invited consumers, even non-customers, to enter into an online contest to come up with the best new flavor. Millions of ideas were generated from the public and are still being discussed on their social media handle, giving Lay’s enough product variation to launch a new flavor every year for hundreds of years to come.
At the same time, they are generating quite a bit of ongoing buzz around the brand and keeping the conversation going on social media around how people like the new flavors. A recent video Lay’s posted on social media features the flavors they are bringing back from previous contests. In fewer than one month, the video has already garnered four million views. This type of campaign not only drives innovation, but brings new customers into the fold by making them feel part of something, part of Lay’s, part of its success. Lay’s began the conversation but then let the consumer run with it on social media.
Social media can be used to launch photo sharing contests, photo caption contests, selfie contests and the like, all around a brand, a product or a cause. Organizations can encourage followers to take photos of themselves with a product or at a place of business and offer the person with the best or most prolific photos and captions win a prize, a discount or even a chance to become part of the brand. Dove’s Real Beauty Should Be Shared contest asked fans to nominate a friend who “represents Real Beauty” and the winners get to be featured in a Dove ad. Even non-profits can get in on the game by raising public awareness through social media contests.
Other examples of customer engagement include inviting consumers to become part of an exclusive group. Feature a Fan of the Week using selfie posts on the company website and all social media channels to encourage others to participate. Like Kellogg Eggo, offer followers an invitation to share recipes using your product and winning recipes win a prize.
It’s All about The Conversation
In all of these instances, a themed conversation is begun by the brand but then consumers keep it going, giving organizations the perfect environment to launch ongoing marketing promotions to a captured audience. With every new promotion and opportunity to engage, new customers and prospects can be won and the snowball effect ensues.
Social media ideas do not always need to be centered around a product or service, but can be seasonal. Photo contests can include selfies in front of Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, a snowman or in-store near a specific character or holiday product. Recipe contests can flourish with holiday-inspired themes.
Followers enjoy engaging with a brand publicly on social media via these creative marketing campaigns, but thanks to Facebook Messenger, brands can now interact with followers in the most personal way – through one-on-one, private conversations. These private conversations further draw in the consumer, deepening the relationship and helping them feel truly valued. The challenge for the company is to balance public and private interactions with customers.
Organizations should use technology to monitor social media threads and determine when a sales or customer service representative can jump in to engage the follower in a private conversation. Additionally, companies can encourage followers to use Messenger to contact a representative with any questions at any time, particularly when in store or shopping online. Messenger gives social media followers a simple way to build a more personal relationship with a brand through private conversations aimed at providing that extra touch of human interaction. By connecting with a real person in a real conversation, consumers feel once again they are more than just another customer.
With the holidays rapidly approaching, take a look at how you can use social media and Messenger to engage with more prospects and customers in both public and private interactions. Get creative in developing campaigns that attract and retain followers, keep the conversation going, and promote your brand. To gain brand/product fans instead of just people wanting the prize, carefully craft your contest to involve your product or service and get people talking about it. With the right campaign, your customers can become your greatest marketers.