Using social media to improve customer engagement

Facebook, Instagram, and — of course — LinkedIn. From connecting with colleagues to finding old friends, social media provides a valuable and ubiquitous role in our daily lives. But it isn’t just about personal communication; it’s also about connecting with consumers. 88% of businesses are now using social media for marketing. LinkedIn, Yelp, Facebook, and even Instagram now play a vital part in connecting customers directly with brands. By using social media strategically, companies can not only increase general brand awareness but also customer retention and engagement.

Choosing the right platforms

Social media platforms change year by year. Platforms such as Vine shut down, while Twitter radically alter their platforms with continuous feature upgrades. Each platform has a different core demographic and is useful for different industries. To create an effective social media campaign, you need to understand the different platforms available and select the most appropriate one for you.

  • Facebook. Restaurants, bars, and nightlife venues frequently find their customers turning to Facebook first — and it’s easy to see why. Creating and promoting events on Facebook is an easy way to get in local traffic. But Facebook pages aren’t just for food and drink service; nearly every business should maintain at least a Facebook page where reviews can be posted.
  • Yelp. Yelp has easily become the go-to for customers looking for businesses in their area. Customers will look for everything from general contractors to retail outlets on Yelp and posted user reviews have become extremely important.
  • Google Places. Google Places is extremely well-integrated with the Google Maps service, and consequently having reviews and your business information up is extremely important. For example, when customers search using the keywords “interior painting near me” or “sports good stores,” they’ll often be directed to Google Place information.
  • Instagram. Instagram is popular with restaurants, shopping outlets, and recreational facilities; anything that will give you fun and engaging pictures. Whether your business runs outdoor excursions or sells antique jewellery, Instagram can be a great way to quickly increase brand awareness through solid, unique content.
  • Pinterest. Pinterest tends to have an artsy audience focused on cooking, crafting, fashion, and other creative pursuits. Businesses that are either selling creative products or selling hobbyist supplies will find Pinterest extremely useful.
  • Twitter. Twitter is rapidly becoming a go-to place for business-related information, as well as one of the first places that many customers look to for customer support. Because of that, Twitter is now becoming non-optional for many larger businesses.
  • Tumblr. Companies that want to reach out to a more youthful demographic would do well to consider Tumblr, as the platform is commonly used with demographics aged 15 to 25. Other platforms, such as Facebook, are primarily focused on the 25+ audience.
  • LinkedIn. With nearly half a billion users, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional and business networking platform. It is a vital networking tool that also aids in both customer retention and talent acquisition, making it a critical component in every company’s overall networking strategies.

It’s not possible for most businesses to run comprehensive advertising campaigns on all of these platforms. Instead, companies need to drill down and identify which platforms their customers are using the most. Youthful, modern brands may find their core audience on Tumblr and Instagram, whereas B2B companies may want to focus on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Optimise each channel

It’s easy enough to automate your marketing so that content is replicated across all platforms — but it’s usually not the best strategy. Every platform and its audience is different, and consequently content has to be optimised for each channel.

Word limits, hash tags, embedded links, image filters, and more are all different across platforms and impact how users may interact with your content. Content on Twitter or Facebook may have vastly different hashtags than content on Instagram or Pinterest. Similarly, some types of content such as video or images may be better suited for other platforms.

Building a strategy

  1. Develop your social media goals. Is your organisation attempting to build brand awareness? Increase sales? Bring in website traffic?
  2. Investigate platforms. Which platforms are more likely to be of use to your organisation? How can they be integrated together?
  3. Create a content calendar. Use an automated system to schedule your posts and connect your chosen social media platforms.
  4. Set the tone. When posting to and interacting on social media, put your content first — and avoid being overly promotional.
  5. Build relationships. Social media isn’t a one-way street. Build relationships by interacting with customers one-on-one.

Analyse and optimise

It isn’t always possible to have the correct social media strategy right out of the gate. Instead, you’ll need to analyse your audience behaviour and optimise your strategy to their needs. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which posts are garnering the most interest? Try to take advantage of popular content by promoting it and following up with similar posts.
  • When do we get the most interaction? You may find scheduling your posts at different times and days of the week will get better reactions.
  • Where are our followers coming from? By identifying the sources of your followers, you can see which platforms are most useful to your strategy.
  • How many followers are we retaining? If followers are frequently leaving, you may not be delivering the content that they expected.

Find the value in social media engagement

Through social media, you can effectively build your customer relationships and increase customer engagement — but it does take a lot of work. With no one-size-fits-all solution, each business must find their own path. Your social media strategy will depend on a lot of factors, including your organisation’s industry and its primary audience. But once you’re able to develop a solid social media strategy, you’ll find yourself connecting and engaging with your customers more directly.

Modern businesses are finding that the way that they do business and market is changing very quickly. From recruiting brand ambassadors to improving brand awareness, companies must always be cutting edge if they want to remain competitive. With the rise of new digital trends, many CEOs, entrepreneurs, and managers may find themselves needing advice and guidance. At TEC, we provide world-class mentoring from an experienced and successful network of professionals from different industry sectors. If you want to build connections, enhance your business or get help in navigating the ever-changing corporate landscape, contact TEC today to get started.

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The guide to marketing metrics that really matter

It’s easy for a business to become overwhelmed with the sheer amount of marketing data that it has collected. But marketing data isn’t just “data”, it is critical to improving and directing a marketing strategy. Just as logistics and shipping analysis is necessary for fine-tuning business operations, marketing data is necessary for identifying potential opportunities and points of failure. But because every business is different, the metrics that are important to a particular strategy may also differ. Companies need to be knowledgeable about different types of metric if they are to isolate the ones that are relevant to them.

 

Audience metrics

  1. Visits to the website

In terms of audience metrics, there are two important ways to count visits — total traffic and per user. Total traffic encompasses the number of individuals visiting your website. Services such as Google Analytics can even show you real-time dashboard results regarding how many users are active right now. Total traffic should always be trending upwards year-on-year. Often, the per user visits may be more important. Analytics services can also track how many times an individually recognised user has visited your site. This shows how much of your audience you are retaining. Customers average six to eight connections with a brand before conversion.

  1. New sessions

When a user visits a website, all of their activity is considered to be a “session.” The amount of new sessions is an effective metric to assess your brand awareness – Is this increasing over time? For growth campaigns, new sessions can be used to track the performance of outreach initiatives. More new sessions mean an expanding audience, while a decrease can indicate a plateau in market saturation or a loss of interest. Sessions can be combined with other metrics — such as how long the user stays on the site, how many pages they visit, and whether they come back.

 

Behaviour metrics

  1. Sources of traffic

Where is your audience coming from? Search engines, advertising campaigns, the monthly newsletter, social channels and direct links will all be recorded under sources of traffic. If your website is being primarily accessed through search engines, then your SEO campaign is healthy and working. If your website is being primarily accessed through social media accounts, then your social media campaigns are working. Your “sources of traffic” analysis tells you which components of your marketing strategy are most effective — and which components need more work.

  1. Bounce rate

Sometimes users may reach a website and then immediately leave it without taking a further action. This can happen for a variety of reasons — the page was slow to load, the content was something they did not expect, they did not like the design of the website or they simply became distracted. Regardless, a high bounce rate generally indicates that something has gone wrong.

 

Campaign performance metrics

  1. Conversion rate

The conversion rate is often the most important metric in a marketing campaign. Conversion is commonly used to refer to a user making a purchase; converting from a user to a customer. But that isn’t the only type of conversion. Conversion rates can also be used to track newsletter sign ups, contact us forms, brochure downloads, or free trials — it all depends on the strategy. Many campaigns focus primarily on increasing the conversion rate, which means paring down to users that are most likely to convert, and attempting to secure more of these users.

  1. CTR

Click through ratings are used to track when customers interact with links, whether through blog links, email marketing, or paid ads. If customers aren’t clicking through, they aren’t converting. This could mean that the marketing copy and design is not engaging or is not reaching the right audience. A low CTR generally indicates the need for a clearer or more compelling call to action.

  1. Customer acquisition cost

Customer acquisition cost, in its simplest form, is the amount that you spend on marketing divided by the number of customers gained. How much is the marketing team spending to acquire one customer? By tracking customer acquisition costs, you can optimise your strategies to make the most out of your advertising dollar. If you have multiple campaigns working at once, it may be difficult to isolate the cost of each individual strategy. In these situations, split-testing and granular tracking of each separate campaign may be necessary.

  1. Social media and content engagement

Likes, shares, follows and comments all show positive levels of engagement. These metrics are used to assess what content best works with your audience. As with high levels of traffic and recurring sessions, social media engagement improved the odds that users will convert, in addition to extending brand identity and general brand awareness.

 

Long-term marketing metrics

  1. Customer lifetime value

Customer lifetime value is calculated by averaging the amount that a customer will spend with a business throughout their entire relationship. For each customer, there is both the cost of acquisition and the cost of retention. Lowering these costs and increasing customer spending will increase revenue. Low customer lifetime value may indicate that a company is not effectively retaining customers.

  1. Net Promoter Score

Net promoter scores, measured on a scale from -100 to 100, indicate the willingness of current customers to refer others to a business. Essentially, it is a metric that reflects word-of-mouth reputation. Net promoter scores are solid indicators of customer loyalty. Low net promoter scores may indicate that a business needs to improve its products or its customer service.

Depending on your individual marketing strategy, you may use only a few of these metrics — or you may use nearly all of them. Your campaign may be focused on building awareness, improving revenue, or both. Regardless, a solid understanding of the metrics available is the first step towards creating a well-rounded and well-optimised strategy. By consistently tracking the right metrics, your organisation will be able to compare different initiatives and improve upon them. But that also requires experience and knowledge. At TEC, individuals are able to reach out to peers who are exploring and discovering the same marketing strategies and advancements. Contact TEC today to learn more about the benefits of an on-demand and exclusive peer-to-peer executive network.

Inbound marketing: A new way of marketing

63 percent of businesses now report that generating traffic and leads is one of their top marketing challenges. A few decades ago, it was commonplace for consumers to rely on advertising that was sent to them — television and radio advertisements, physical mailers, and even billboards. In the early days of the Internet, marketers sought to replicate the impact of this type of advertising through pop up ads, banner ads, and interstitial ads.

But very quickly, an entirely new way of marketing has emerged — inbound marketing.

In inbound marketing, customers are targeted with great content so they are directed to the business themselves, given that it can provide them with the information and insights they need.

 

What is Inbound Marketing?

Commercials, physical mailers, and magazine ads are all forms of “outbound” advertising. Companies send these highly promotional advertisements to customers with the express purpose of getting them to commit.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is marketing that promotes great content and makes it available to customers in a way that points them back to the company. Inbound marketing encompasses corporate websites, social media accounts, blogs, and other content repositories. Inbound marketing is notable primarily because the consumer is entirely in control of the whole interaction. Brands give them the data they need so they can choose the brand themselves.

Let’s check out how inbound marketing works when buying a car.

Decades ago, consumers were fed with various advertisements for local car dealerships — this is how they got to decide which dealership to go for and select from the cars they have available.

Today, a consumer is more likely to google different car models first before deciding on what car to buy for themselves. They will then do an independent research on car dealerships available in their area, read online reviews to check for trustworthiness and reputation, and then check if they have the car of their choice available.

To appropriately capture inbound marketing, modern companies need to be aware of both buyer personas (representatives of their key demographics) and buyer journeys (the process of purchasing that a buyer undergoes). Learning more about your buyers personas and supporting them as they go through the buyer journey is a key way to improve conversion and engagement.

 

The stages of Inbound Marketing strategy

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Attract: In an inbound marketing strategy, the goal is to attract consumers at the very first stages of the buyer journey. When looking for new products and services, 65 percent of smartphone users search for relevant information first — regardless of where it comes from. In real estate, a real estate agent may want to attract buyers who are looking into home financing or sellers who are looking into remodelling a home for sale.

Convert: Once you’ve successfully attracted the consumer’s attention, the need to promote great content is essential to drive them to convert. Through a great content strategy, marketers will want to showcase how their product is superior to others. From the scenario above, a real estate agent can do this by establishing trustworthiness and authority through timely and valuable content.

Close: Marketers are often only able to directly engage with consumers when closing. All content must be tilted towards a clear and concise call to action. The call to action directs a consumer further along their buyer journey, ultimately leading to closing a deal. Using the same example, a real estate agent would urge ready buyers and sellers to connect with them directly.

Delight: With consumers given more control, retained customers have become even more important. After closing a sale, marketers need to get in touch with their clientele to make sure they have everything they need and check if they were fully satisfied with the process. By driving customer loyalty, you ensure repeat business.

 

Channels used for Inbound Marketing

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Social media: Consumers enjoy interacting with brands directly. Social media accounts can be used to distribute content, engage with consumers, and actively respond to any questions and concerns.

Blog posts: Blogging is an effective way for companies and professionals to build up a repository of great content. 53 percent of marketers report that blog posts are their top inbound marketing strategy.

Word of mouth: Consumers often ask friends and family for advice when looking for big ticket purchases. In fact, 64 percent of marketing executives believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. An effective word-of-mouth strategy nearly always come from previous clientele.

Search engine optimisation: Consumers need to be able to find a business to interact with it. When consumers have questions in mind, SEO directs them to the right answers. An SEO campaign relies upon keywords and high-quality content to promote brand and businesses.

Online video: There are many third-party platforms dedicated to online video, which provides a mix of social media engagement and an engaging video content.

Email marketing: Consumers are often interested in further information from brands and companies they trust. Signing up for an email newsletter provides consumers the opportunity to learn more about the brand and in turn, gives companies direct access to consumers on a regular basis.

 

Building an Inbound Marketing strategy

There are many types of inbound marketing strategy — and different types of strategy work well for different companies, industries, and demographics. Building an effective strategy that is universal and can be used in a massive scale is impossible. Everything needs to be tailored to the customer’s needs. Marketers, instead,  need to ensure that they have a strategic plan and that they are able to adapt to this plan as needed.

A marketing plan should consist of a clear goal, solid metrics, and methods of optimisation. Goals may range from improving engagement to building sales revenue, depending on the company’s current advertising strategy. Metrics must be directly related to goals to track the performance of the strategy and optimisation must be completed on a regular basis to ensure that the strategy remains effective.

 

Not sure whether your business is in need of an inbound strategy?

  • Do you use your website to sell your product or service?
  • Does your target audience use the internet to research topics related to your product or service?
  • Do you want to expand your customer base beyond your company’s geographic location?
  • Do you have expertise to share?

Marketing is continuously evolving and businesses need to keep up in order to stay relevant. CEOs, entrepreneurs, and high-level professionals must be well-versed in these new marketing strategies if they are to survive the technological disruption and consumer revolution that is to come. Modern consumers are now looking to make more intelligent choices on their purchases, giving tech-savvy companies an opportunity to grow and an opportunity to outpace slower competition.

But when something as intrinsic to a business as marketing strategies change, there may be a myriad of other adjustments that need to be made as well. Consulting with other key stakeholders within your industry is one of the best ways to learn how to adjust your strategy and avoid common pitfalls.

TEC provides access to a strong peer-to-peer network of executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals that offer peer-to-peer consulting on the massive changes that are impacting businesses today. Contact TEC now to find out more. 

Know yourself, know your enemy

ian-neal-know-your-customers

George was having a terrible day at work. The deal he was sent to conclude had irrecoverably broken down, with key terms rejected and feelings hurt.

He had done everything by the book and followed best practice methods. However, he left without anything to show for his months of advanced negotiations. But unlike many business leaders, he did not take the red-eye home, reviewing the evident failures along the way. No, he in fact had months to muse over his unsuccessful negotiations as it was 1793, and George Macartney was returning home following the failure of the first British diplomatic mission to China.

Macartney faced a number of challenges that have strong similarities with the contemporary plight of marketers today. While he faced unique obstacles, such as showing the appropriate level of submission to Chinese emperor Qianlong, the British call for greater trade ultimately failed due to different perspectives of the world.

The two groups of people, the British on one side and the Chinese on the other, stemmed from very different cultures and started from fundamentally different points-of-view. As such, each had very different objectives and methods for achieving them. The scenario is very similar to the environment marketers find themselves in: Trying to understand customers and consumers, who may have very different perspectives of a brand.

Knowing the customer: Segmenting your markets

In today’s world, understanding customers is essential, from sales to customer service and everything in between.

How many executives simply say: “There are 30 million customers and all we need is 1 per cent market share”?

Rather than help, such an approach glosses over the nuances and differences in the consumer base, risking failure similar to that experienced by George.

So how to avoid similar issues?

Clever market segmentation is the answer.

Traditionally, segmentation occurred by creating homogeneous groups of customers based on demographic characteristics such as age, location and ethnicity.

While it’s a simple idea, market segmentation can throw a number of curve balls to even the most experienced business leaders. However, if they can segment their markets in a meaningful way, the organisation can create marketing messages that are relevant to real customers who have real needs.

I believe that today traditional methods of segmentation are not good enough to deliver satisfactory results. So the question remains: How should market segmentation be approached?

Looking deeper, getting involved

In today’s world, characterised by fragmented perspectives, novel needs and nuanced wants, market segmentation can offer organisations a number of benefits. From risk reduction to enhanced resource use, the technique can offer organisations a way into the diverse world of consumers – if done right. On line marketers talk about a segment of one given the emerging abilities online.

While market research has value, there are a number of limitations. Take a normal qualitative research project. From the offset there are problems to deal with: You have people who are paid to be in the focus group and who may not be representative of the consumer base. You will also need a facilitator who tend to have their own biases, which can influence the direction the group takes and thus the results at the end.

Rather than relying on market research data, I think business leaders need to sit down in one-on-one interviews with 20 to 50 customers. By doing this, researchers can find the common factors that link them and allow real information sharing with the marketing team.

Only by investing the time to sit down with customers can a truly deep and intimate understanding be fostered. However, this is not a task for some intern- it really needs to be conducted by an individual high-up the organisation, someone who is across the business from head to toe and really knows the big issues that the organisation is seeking to solve.

There is no doubt that attracting customers requires a very good and deep  understanding who your customers are and finding clever ways to break them into manageable groups that will respond positively to what you have to offer is the goal of segmentation. Taking traditional methods step further and taking the time of senior leader to actually talk and observe real customers will deliver the gold.

 


Ian NealBy: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Ian Neal

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