I have a confession to make - I don't know anything about cars. I mean, I know the basics - I can change a tyre, change the oil (probably) - but if my car breaks down and I lift the hood, I may as well be looking at a DNA chain under a microscope, I've got no idea. For me, getting the right mechanic is crucial. I need someone I can trust, someone I know isn't going to screw me over just because they can, and finding a good one is tough. Most will tell you that you need to replace this and that and you have no idea, you just nod and try to look like you get it, then you pay the bill. It's of huge value to me to have a good, reliable business to fix my car. That's their place in my world, that's where I need them, and it raises an interesting question for other businesses - where is your place in your consumers' world? This is one of the key things that the expanded relevance of social media can help you answer, by building a solid, reliable and helpful presence, and working to establish your value in the client relationship. Here are three key elements to help achieve that goal.
1. Winning trust is key. It's always a huge tick for my mechanics if they come back to me and say something like: 'your tyres aren't great, but they'll last you a while longer'. This may be just a clever tactic, but the principle is that they could make money from me, they could tell me they're gone and need to be replaced and I'd not know any better, I'd just pay for it, so it definitely builds my trust in their advice if they are able to save me money, even if only by comparative perception, by telling me it's fine for now.
A solid online presence provides is a way for businesses to expand on this type of advice. My mechanic might tell me the tyres are okay, then reinforce it by creating a 'how to' video or providing a link to research content on their website. It's one thing for them to say it's fine, but you can't help thinking that maybe they're just saying that to win you over. But if the mechanic says 'it's fine, there's more info on our website if you need it' - that's a huge reinforcement. That shows that the advice they've given is not just lip-service, not just tailored for you in that moment. It enables the consumer to go home, view the content and become more informed about the process. Maybe not everyone will do this, but having the information there to back up the advice helps reinforce that platform of trust - because the info's right there for all to see. Transparency like this can go a long way towards establishing stronger relationships and building your brand through word of mouth.
2. Establish expertise. Through building trust, you're seeking to become each client's expert advisor for your industry. The more researched, intelligent and valuable information you can provide your clients, the more you can build your brand as the leader in your field. With social media now so prominent in people's lives, establishing expertise, and having a digital reference point for that expertise, is crucial to spreading your brand message via word of mouth. You give people the right advice, and back that up with useful content, and that then leads to recommendations and your reputation spreads through social networks. There are hundreds of thousands of community Facebook groups that share info on businesses, recommendations are made every second. Twitter too is becoming more entrenched in people's daily routines. The value of positive word of mouth via social networks cannot be understated, and building your brand's leadership and expertise is key to this process. By providing the right info, backed up with current, relevant content, you grow your authority and cement your position the subject matter expert.
3. Listen and respond. And this really is the key to solidifying your place in your consumers' world through social media - listening and responding where you can. Sometimes we'll have a problem with the car - we can go on Facebook and send our mechanics a message, which they normally respond to within an hour. Sometimes it's an easy fix, other times more complex, but they'll try to answer as best they can and provide links to helpful articles or info.
Listening and responding on social media are key business skills, something that all brands should undertake in some form. And it extends further than just interactions with your own brand profiles. By paying attention to the right sources, like Facebook community groups, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your target audience and get constant feedback from your target communities. The bigger the business, the more complex, but checking in on the conversation, staying up to date with what consumers are talking and asking about, this provides an endless stream of data to work with. For a local business, you can immediately respond to people looking for products and services in your area, a great way to bring in new clients. For bigger businesses, you can get a better understanding of what your audience wants, what they need, and you can build strategic plans based on demand.
Another interesting aspect you can track through listening is trends. A friend of mine owns a local cafe - he told me how whenever one of those reality cooking shows create some showcase dish, that's all they get asked about for the proceeding week. Now, they can't always just start making whatever dish it is and add it to the menu, but what he can do is research it, know all about it, and answer questions on it. If they can make it, great, that's a big boost to their marketing efforts that week, as they can invite people in to try it out. But if they can't, just knowing about it, being able to engage with customers with their questions helps him build relationships. Seasonal trends, in particular, can help direct your marketing plan, and being able to respond to them immediately (via a blog post maybe) is another valuable way to build community around your brand.
Social media is changing the way consumers interact with brands. It's not enough to broadcast your message anymore, you need to be able to establish trust, your place in their day to day lives. How does your brand help and improve your consumer's world? What ways can your business contribute? Answering these questions are the first steps towards working out how you can use social media to achieve them. There are more opportunities than ever to build your brand, more ways to connect with people. You just need to work out where they are, what they need and how you can be there for them. The more you can, the more you work towards establishing your place in your consumers' world.