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Social is about sharing, not shouting

Don’t think simply being on a social platform is enough – you need a social strategy as well.

Shane Oosthuizen, Entrepreneur, 16 May 2012  Share  0 comments  Print

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Unless you live under a rock in the desert, you no doubt have a Facebook profile. Or a Twitter account. Or both. And if you’re pretty savvy from a business end, you’ve had your marketing team set up a sort of social portfolio for your brand too.

And they no doubt use it as a channel to post and tweet all about product specials and promotions to the handful of fans and followers you’ve acquired alone the way.

If the above is true, then you’ve initiated the first step in getting your brand on a social network, and little else.

“We give too much authority to technology,” says Social expert John Burchill, “Probably because many of us don’t understand it.”

Be a friend – not an irritation

That’s the trouble with social media -  It’s social. People, and I mean normal everyday people, use social as a way to interact with each other. They very rarely use social to shop. So why try sell on it?

It makes sense to use it as a marketing platform, but it’s how you market yourself that will determine if you become a Friend, or an irritation.

Social media as a conversion tool? Yes and no. It depends on what you’re selling. Toys ‘R Us uses innovative application Tabs on Facebook to build links to their online store, with great success. But then again, you’d expect them to convert well with their products.

Have a look at Geico Insurance. This is a company that sells Insurance for Motor and Household. They don’t have a physical store or product, yet they convert fans into clients by engaging on a level that isn’t sale pitchy.

Closer to home however, companies are still shouting. In fact, the banks seem to have a decent understanding of how to engage their customers online. And yet, some don’t even offer comprehensive online banking…  which is worth noting.

Long term tactics

Adopting a strategy of ‘Everything leads towards a Conversion’ as opposed to ‘Shout and they will come!’ is a better tactic long term. Building good customer rapport on social networks, will undoubtedly lead to recurring sales down the line. And this will promote people to share their experiences with other likeminded individuals, who will more than likely start their own customer lifecycle with your brand.

Recently, big B2C (business to consumer) brands and businesses have started using social as a means to connect with their customers at a level their customers understand and feel comfortable with. But many have missed the point all together.

People that associate themselves with a brand via a social network do so for three reasons.

The first is that they are genuine fans of that product. More often than not that product, or brand, is far out the reach of the majority of its fans. Ferrari is a good example.

As a brand, this is a great position to be in as it establishes that your brand is highly desirable, or has a lot of public appeal. But ask yourself this: how valuable is that fan really?

Second, and a more important reason, is that those fans have meaningful engagements with that brand via the social network of choice. They like to share the content that has been presented to them, and they want to engage with that brand because it asks them their opinion.

The third reason lies with customer service. Social networks have created portals that lend themselves to B2C practices, but are actually more suited to C2B interactions.

Twitter and customer relations

Zor Gorelov, CEO of Speech Cycle, recently wrote an article in which he suggested that the call centre “will cease to be the primary channel between companies and their customers.” This is already ringing true for companies like Best Buy in theUS, which now has a dedicated Twitter account purely for customer relations.

People feel more comfortable dealing with a company that is willing to engage them at their level. Consumers grow more loyal when their query is addressed in their medium of choice.

In stark contrast, any unanswered queries on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed are visible to everyone, so it pays to have your site constantly monitored.

But it’s the marketing potential of these social platforms that get the most airtime. And also get the most negative feedback.

Encourage sharing

Social is about sharing. Shout marketing, (ie splashing promotion after promotion onto a page) really doesn’t do what you’d expect it to. If anything, it encourages people to ‘unlike’ or ‘unfriend’ your page. The reason? Over population of pages, which in turn clog up the user’s homepage, are irritating. And look like spam.

If you concentrate efforts on generating content that encourages people to share it amongst their followers and friends, your exposing your brand to a far greater audience.

Think of them as brand ambassadors who aren’t on the payroll.

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About the author

Shane Oosthuizen, Entrepreneur

Shane Oosthuizen is a tech writer who has been researching and tracking the growth of e-commerce across the globe. By keeping on top of the latest strategies and technologies, he has established himself as a leading authority on online retailing in South Africa.

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