Facebook has over 890 million daily active users and in Q4 2014 a revenue of $3,851 million. Today these numbers are making Facebook the third largest population (behind China and India). Facebook is clearly biggest social media community out there, but many other exist and catered for specific type of users, being Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or snapchat, to name just a few.
Yet many businesses are still unaware of the advantages of connecting with their customers on social, and some still fear it due to their lack of understanding. In fact, 93 per cent of buying decisions are based on social media. Ignoring social channels can be detrimental to businesses, and those who do will find it to be a costly mistake, especially when you consider that 72 per cent of consumers are more likely to stay engaged with brands because of social media.
Traditional marketing methods have been found to be inauthentic: 92 per cent of consumers trust third party endorsements and family and friends more than they trust brand marketing. Therefore, in order to ensure a profitable future, brands need to connect and engage with the digital generation. Customers have become social-savvy reviewers: they all have an online following and audience, therefore engaging with them on social platforms and providing them with interesting relevant content is a priority.
In order to increase brand awareness, businesses need to transform digital native customers into brand advocates and this can only be done if the relationship has been nurtured. The key for brands is to encourage consumers to endorse the brand and play a real part within the business. Once a brand has built a strong following they must then feed their appreciation back to their audience. Reward the most loyal and socially influential followers; make them feel part of the brand rather than just another customer. Gamification is key in that process and can take different forms, depending of the brands and its community.
Social channels facilitate transparent communication between the brand and their customers, in turn enabling them to be viewed as a trusted source. For example, since Sky extended its help forums to Facebook and Twitter, customers report 90-100 per cent satisfaction. This proves that social media as a tool for customer service is beneficial for customer relationships. Investing time in customers demonstrates the value they have and in turn increases the chances of a re-visit and peer-to-peer recommendations. Other brands use social as a way of cross-promoting products via their own community, by letting consumers recommend products to other customers.
As technology is continuously evolving, the key challenge for brands is not to keep up with consumers, but to stay ahead of the game. Customers now demand more from the brands than ever before, and they have never played such an important role to a brand’s reputation. Without social visibility, brands will find it extremely difficult to interact with underground influencers who are shaping the future.
By Fabrice Etienne, EMEA Marketing Director at Lithium Technologies.
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