The past three years for brands in social media have evolved rapidly. From the days of focused social listening to relying on campaign-based applications, brands now find themselves in a position to focus on real-time, consistent engagement with social customers.
Rather than waiting on opportunities to engage with social communities, brands leading the social charge are creating opportunities for interaction. This shift, from reactive to proactive, is changing the model of connecting with social consumers. And leading social brands are following five core principles to initiate meaningful social engagement.
1. Embrace your inner Bob Ross to create a visual experience
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ continue to place emphasis on the newsfeed as "the location" for users to consume information and engage. The sea of text-based statuses are being overshadowed by powerful visuals that stand out within the crowded space. Add the adoption rates of visual-based sites like Pinterest and Instagram, and it's abundantly clear that social users prefer to be shown and not told. Finding ways to visually tell a story, highlight a product, or even promote a special can break through the social noise and create an immediate impact. In return, these visuals can also evoke an emotional response. Jason's Deli may prompt a craving for a healthy dinner salad while you find your next dream vacation inspiration on HomeAway surfing Pinterest.
2. Stop social shouting and start social inquiring
Most brands have a pre-determined message to share with target audiences. But social media is a two-way vehicle, and creating interactions requires putting down the megaphone and picking up the stethoscope. Establishing a pulse on what your social community cares about and starting actual conversations - not just publishing messages - about these topics creates value and ultimately builds loyalty. Instead of blasting out company-related messages, consider taking a cue from a brand leader like Whole Foods and create conversation starters that begin a vibrant dialogue. Asking questions, prompting discussion, and instigating valuable interactions can open the doors for sharing relevant brand content.
3. Help A Customer Out
You don't have to lead a customer service team to realize the value in providing help to customers and prospects. Nearly half of all users lean on social media for issues and care-related questions. Acknowledging users and providing reactive help is crucial, though organizations shouldn't simply wait for directed inquiries. Delivering helpful tips, timely advice or proactive industry information can pre-empt questions and positively impact the experience of social customers. Nokia has built an entire social program around increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty through social. And brands like REI are finding creative ways to incorporate marketing into customer utility.
4. Tap into internal expertise
The sky is the limit when fueling social engagement with content. But some brands experience failure to launch when it comes to planning around resources to create conversations and relevant content. With respect to content, successful social programs expand beyond the core social team; they tap into insights and expertise across the organization. Brands like AT&T and AARP are prime examples of what utilizing the entire spectrum of organizational know-how looks like. The person best suited to provide texting while driving advocacy or tax-related considerations for caregivers is likely different than the person who can add value around exclusive social entertainment content or member-only money-saving deals. All of this content and expertise can create useful customer experiences, bolstering the fact that embracing internal expertise enhances the impact of social.
5. Reciprocate, curate and support community
Brian Solis recently reminded brands that social media is first and foremost about "me". As consumers, we engage across social channels for personal utility and perceived benefit. Reciprocity and communal support play an integral role in this. For brands, this means acknowledgement, sharing of perspectives outside of just your company and finding opportunities to support social community members. Giving back to the community without expecting anything in return is often the first place to start. This reciprocal altruism, paired with amplifying the voice of community members and participating in conversations beyond the scope of owned social channels, plays a vital role in making social programs about the people they should serve - the actual social users.
The days of brands having the luxury to "sit and wait" for opportunities to engage with social users are gone. More and more, socially fit organizations are creating moments to facilitate social interaction. In return, these proactive measures are building more engaged communities, driving a higher level of customer satisfaction, and increasing loyalty among social network members (and customers).