With social media, understanding what is critical to your customers and engaging with them is a good way to differentiate your organization
Marketers have long recognized the criticality of good content and devised numerous ways to populate their offerings. Whether they were dealing with TV, print or online media, there was a recognition that communications needed to be clear and catch one's interest. Content got stale quickly. The focus was on creativity, originality and added value.
As social media has evolved and two-way conversations have replaced one-way messages, user-generated content has become a vital part of the marketers tool kit. While this enables a reduction in the costs of content creation, the true value is in the greater engagement of key constituents and the advocacy role loyal customers now play.
In a networked world, the context of communications is just as important as the content. Take the case of Dove. The brands user-generated ads featured "real" women, rather than size zero models. The reaction to this was incredibly positive and led to a shift from messaging about shampoo and soap, to advocating an appreciation of women of all sizes. The Dove brand has become part of a larger movement of healthy body image and empowerment. And, sales have been strong.
Creating or being part of a community of like-minded individuals allows you to transcend one's products and stand for something larger. While the message is still critical, how it is communicated and by whom, are just as important. While not every brand is going to be part of a social movement, understanding what is critical to your customers and engaging with them on those issues, is a good way to differentiate your organization from the competition.
Remember, consumers seek information from each other rather than traditional sources or experts. The growth of TripAdvisor, Yelp and Angie's List attest to this. Marketers must earn the trust of their audience and put their messages in the proper context. Here are three suggestions:
1. Engage with customers on their social networks and understand what they care about. Is there an unmet need you could be filling or a different role you could be playing?
2. Find out who your loyal customers are. Nurture them, build relationships and convert them to be advocates.
3. Think about your business in terms of the external communities you operate in. Are there events or programs you could sponsor or issues you might want to champion on your networks.
Social media has changed the game and enabled a different level of engagement. Great content is important, but relationships and context are key.
About the author
Andrea Goldberg, PhD, is president and founder of Digital Culture Consulting, LLC and an expert in market intelligence, social media and change leadership. She provides organizations with a holistic perspective on how to best to use insights and collaboration to improve employee engagement, customer satisfaction and business results.