When any new technology gets rolled out — whether it’s e-mail, text messaging or social media — it takes some time for best practices and effective strategies to cement themselves. And while many businesses (of all sizes) are still looking for ways to leverage social media, some techniques have already proven fruitful and can help your business expand its reach.
The key to turning your business into a social media marketing success is focusing on the fundamentals that already make your business great, and enabling your customers to spread the word about your exceptional products or services.
Here is a 5-step plan for linking your customers’ experience to the power of their endorsement, which will, in turn, bring more customers to your business:
1. Start with exceptional service.
Though providing your customers with positive, memorable experiences may seem an obvious suggestion, the importance of this first step cannot be understated. Whatever inspired you to first open your doors (or whichever services set you apart from your competition today) is what you need to focus on in every customer interaction you have.
When you’re firing on all cylinders and giving your patrons a top-notch experience, you’re turning casual customers into passionate ones. For better or for worse, these are the types of people who are most likely to spread the word about your business to their friends and colleagues. And for any social media marketing campaign to take off, you need to have all-out fans willing to evangelize your brand and the great experiences they’ve had with it.
2. Engage your customers with interesting content.
Great service is a first step in building a passionate fan base, but the next step involves extending the experience outside your four walls. E-mail marketing helps you reach your passionate customers when they are not in your store by sharing news, tips and other information through periodic communications.
The benefits of e-mail marketing go beyond simply keeping your customers informed. The basic act of asking for an e-mail address strengthens the bond between your business and your customers because they are entrusting you with a piece of their personal information. And while an e-mail address may seem like a tiny detail, when someone gives it to a business, that proves the business is a trusted contact that the person would like to engage with on a deeper level. In addition, e-mail newsletters are easily (and often) forwarded to and shared with friends, so this a simple first step towards leveraging your customers’ contacts, if they choose to forward along your messages.
3. Help your passionate customers spread the word.
Forwarding an e-mail newsletter is still a great way for your customers to spread the word about your company, but social media marketing provides a lot of other ways, too. For example, archive your e-mail newsletter content online. This will allow you to post the newsletter as links on various social networking sites around the Web.
Andrea Herran of Point Barrington, Illinois-based Focus HR Consulting does a great job of leveraging her e-mail content to drive her social media marketing efforts. Every month, she sends out a short e-mail newsletter that features an article about management, and includes links to her recent blog posts and other resources that might interest her subscribers. Before she sends out the newsletter, Herran runs a teaser post on Twitter that often prompts more people to sign up. And after the newsletter is sent, she engages with subscribers about it on Facebook, talking about ideas she shared and learning more from her customers.
4. Turn casual acquaintances into passionate customers.
Sharing information with friends is the very nature of social media marketing, so using this channel to engage your most passionate customers will quickly increase awareness in your business among their contacts. This is why providing content to your most passionate customers is so important: Give them something worthwhile to talk about, and they will gladly share it with their friends. Some examples of items your business could post include:
- Details on new products, or changes to existing offerings
- Specials, deals, discounts and coupons
- News on upcoming events
- Information about community functions your business may be participating in
- Offers, prizes, rewards and contests
As the word spreads about your news, more customers will connect with your business via social media. In fact, customers are more likely to connect via social media than they are through e-mail marketing — but don’t let that discourage you. E-mail subscribers are more engaged because they interact through their inbox, which means they’ll be alerted when your message arrives, while social media contacts get distracted more easily. Social media is very popular right now, but remember that its users tend to be more like casual acquaintances in comparison to the passionate customers that e-mail marketing provides.
5. Keep the “virtuous circle” going.
If the ultimate goal is to convert as many people into passionate customers as possible, then it all comes back to providing a great customer experience. Use social media marketing to lure customers into your business, where you can wow them with the kind of exceptional service they heard about from their contacts. And if these new customers heard about your business via social media, try to get them to sign up for your e-mail newsletter while they’re there. When they do, you’ll know you’ve found another passionate customer, and your efforts will spin onward to their friends.
This creates a virtuous circle that will continue to build buzz and generate followers for your business with every new newsletter and great customer experience you produce.