Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Andrea Baxter, owner of Bratface Marketing and co-founder of Smart Cookies, and Cristina Pagnucco, an account coordinator with Bratface. Andrea is a regular contributor to the Biz Ladies series, with posts on how to brand your business on a budget, trendsetters, influencers and connectors and sole proprietorship vs. incorporation. Today they’ll discuss how to use social media to humanize your brand. From monitoring comment responses to selecting the right social media platforms for your business, these ladies cover social media practices from top to bottom. Thanks, ladies, for such an informative post! — Stephanie
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How do you build a relationship with your customer in 2011? The huge push to become a transparent and social brand is ever prevalent in today’s consumer world, so how can you become visible in conversation while maintaining and strengthening your brand without having any negative effects?
The answer is you can’t. There will always be critics out there judging your product or service, but the important thing is knowing that you can quickly turn that around. The best way to do this is to make sure that you are an active participant in the conversation.
Re-Thinking Advertising $$
While large businesses boast enormously scaled advertising, small businesses have the opportunity to create smart ways of conversing with their online customers without the exorbitant costs. Consider if the word social media just meant, “speaking to your customer.” What a privilege to be able to engage directly with the people who “choose” to “like” your brand and find that you have some value to offer to them? That accessibility allows for a limitless forum of conversation, so utilizing affordable Facebook ads, engaging on Twitter and posting videos on YouTube are the ultimate advertising because they’re a choice factor. The customer chooses to like you.
Is it obvious that your brand is a small business? How can a customer tell? Sometimes it depends on how many channels you are part of. The more you participate and converse, the more presence you will have, and the size of your business won’t matter if it’s creating emotional connections. Social media is a way for smaller businesses to invest little up front and create the online exposure with audiences that they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to take advantage of.
Taking Control & Listening
Once you’ve created a community for your customers, make sure that you’re proactive and listening. Answer their questions and develop a “we listen, we care” service ethic. Eventually you can spend less time worrying about what your customer is saying outside of your community because the majority of your fans/followers are in those online channels, talking about and to you (your brand).
What happens when we get a negative comment?
I have seen those Facebook posts in which the customer is angry and writes on the company wall, “I didn’t get my product on time,” “Your service was not up to par,” etc. The best way to deal with that is to answer and help the customer. Always respond in a timely fashion by taking their negative comment/experience and turning it into a positive one that results in loyal customers. Here are some tips you might find useful when dealing with this:
- Message the customer via their Facebook page, or if you have their contact information on file, use that route. If their comment was via Twitter, take the conversation to a private platform and DM (direct message) them to obtain an email or phone number. After this, the conversation shouldn’t be public.
- Post a reply to their comment thanking them for their feedback, and let them know that you would like to help them with their concern. Always use their name.
- Look into what the problem was, fix the issue and figure out a way to offer them something for their inconvenience.
Deal with negative comments as soon as possible and do it with class, professionalism and genuine concern. This allows you to take control of the situation, therefore providing your customers with an example of how you deal with any upcoming issues. It also shows that you take an active stance with social media and use it as an open platform for all customers, followers and fans.
What happens when you get a positive comment?
As much as we love positive comments, when they are left without a response, they can be just as bad as negative comments. You always want to acknowledge your raving fans that have good experiences. Make sure you are rewarding those who love your product just as much as those who have an issue. Consider it the power of free GOOD press and marketing!
A key point to remember is that humanizing your brand means you not only show your strengths but also that you are okay showing your weaknesses. It’s fine to be transparent because customers love that you care about your product and your customers. We would rather be in the conversation and give our two cents instead of ignoring what’s really being said. Since a large percentage of those people are now engaging online with their friends (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and creating their own connections, why not be part of that conversation?
The Balance: Integrating Social Media with Traditional Marketing
As a beginner, integrating social media into your marketing plan can feel as if you’re stepping into uncharted territory where the rules of the game are not so regulated. With social media, you do lose some of that control and step outside the comfort zone you have with traditional marketing. We’re here to say don’t worry, it isn’t that bad! It’s a gradual process, and you won’t learn it all overnight, but we promise, it will be worth the time and small investment.
We always tell our clients that it’s important to blend the two because traditional marketing should complement and support social media and vice versa. Often, companies feel that social media is the way to go because it’s cheap, and they ignore the more costly, traditional forms of marketing, but we disagree. There will always be an audience that responds to more traditional forms of marketing, so the balance is really just creating awareness for the two.
The Plan: Be Prepared
If you’re going to start engaging in social media then there are some preparations you need to make prior to taking it to the masses. Look at your business from the outside in and find out what your customer’s perception is. Doing your research first will show your online audience that you know your brand well and that you’re speaking directly to them.
Make your goals, missions and ideals match those with whom you surround yourself. As hard as it is (and it will always be a struggle), try to employ people who have the same passion and drive for your brand as you do. Ensure that the people who manage your social media channels understand your brand, services, products, core values and messaging. Your brand should develop one voice online and this should be apparent when customers browse your social channels. You don’t want to confuse them!
Perform a customer-service audit of your favorite brands and look at the ones with which you have an emotional connection. Do you get that warm, happy feeling every time you step into their store? Are their product and service consistent each and every time? What is it about the brand that keeps you going back? These are the elements most people relate to when they describe their favorite brands, and that is how you want your customer to feel. After being a business owner for a period of time, you may forget what it feels like to be the customer, so it’s something you should remind yourself of. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes — what would you change and what do your customers want?
Cherry Picking: Which Social Media Platforms To Use
Before signing up for every social media platform, determine which ones would be most useful for your business, which ones best support your brand and which ones your target audience uses. Facebook is great for a business based on the simple fact that it has the most users (over 500 million!). In putting a face to your brand, Facebook allows you to talk directly to your customers and address any of their concerns, plus it’s open to anyone with a Facebook profile! There are tons of options for monetizing your brand on Facebook — from customized landing-page tabs to Facebook ads where you can target customers by country, age or interest to picking the daily pay-per-click price.
Facebook Insights is also a valuable resource to help you with ROI (return on investment) because it tells you who your audience is, how many visitors and impressions you have and more. This allows you to tweak your page and messaging based on the stats provided.
Twitter is another useful platform to use, but be forewarned: if you just use it to post 140 characters of product information and coupons without any conversation, then you’re not humanizing your brand; you are simply contributing to the noise. Converse with your followers, answer any mentions (this is when people actually mention your Twitter handle — @BratfaceMrktg — in their tweets) and provide interesting information you know your viewers would want to see. Don’t be afraid of negative comments/feedback — use this opportunity to turn a negative into a positive, win customers over and maintain their loyalty.
Two other great social media channels we use at Bratface Marketing are LinkedIn and YouTube. LinkedIn is a great for like-minded business people to network, swap business ideas, join groups, post feedback and comments to groups and more. Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to list your other social media addresses so people can reach or follow you there. It’s all about connecting the dots, creating conversation and building your network!
YouTube is wonderful for virality! It’s amazing how many videos go viral these days. The truth is, people are visual, and they love to see what it is you are saying or selling. Demo videos, short introductory videos of your business and what you do — you name it! It shows that you are taking the time to educate and inform your audience about anything business related — in other words, adding that “human touch” to your business. The ROI will be limitless!
Is It Working?
Social media’s ROI can only be determined by the amount of effort, time and genuine interest you put into it and how your ideal customer responds over time. It’s the emotional connection that creates a lasting memory in the customer’s brain, but like anything, that connection must be nurtured and the attention must be consistent in order to see the positive effects. It all results in humanizing your brand.
We love hearing how other small companies are using social media effectively and how it’s helped grow your business. How are you connecting with your customers via social media? Email us at email@example.com.