There is no doubt that two of the main disrupters in the last 10 years have been Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Both the iPhone and Facebook have changed our lives, particularly in the way we socialize and connect with one another. Smartphones aside, I believe that there is still much more to come regarding social media, and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
Today, social media is the most powerful form of marketing and marketing research in the world. If your company doesn’t have a strategy built around the main social networks, then it’s time to restructure your marketing plans.
Listen and learn
Everybody spends time on social media. We check to see if anybody liked our pictures on Facebook, search for news on Twitter, scroll through hundreds of Instagram pictures for vacation ideas, hunt for home decoration tips on Pinterest, and stalk people’s CVs on LinkedIn. Listen to the conversations, and learn how your audience is using social media.
No matter the size of your company, you can leverage the power of social media to increase your audience and tap into revenue-generating business. Follow these five steps to grow your social media presence across any or all channels, and engage followers who may ultimately become customers.
#1 Establish your digital identity
There are many social networks out there, and they all serve different purposes. Before you pour time, effort and money into any of them, you need to study your target audience: who are they, where are they located, and how can you best reach them with the different options you have available.
Once you’ve decided on the main channels you want to grow, you need to make sure you’ve configured them properly. It might seem simple, but some of the social networks can be very tricky. Oftentimes there are many steps and verification processes required before everything is operating smoothly. This step is like the base when you’re building a house. I can’t highlight enough how important it is for a business to properly write their address on their Google+ local and brand pages. This is the primary way many people find you when they’re searching for your location.
#2 Grow your audience
This is probably the most difficult part: I’ve created all my channels, now what? The first step is to use the contacts that you already have, and let them know you’re now active in several social media channels. If you own a large email list, most social media networks can send notifications to members of that list to suggest that they follow you.
You also want to place “follow buttons” on your website. These buttons won’t lead potential customers away from your site but will convert them from visitors to followers with a simple mouse click.
Beyond the points above, each channel requires a different strategy. For “hashtag” channels such as Twitter or Instagram, the trick is to find influencers. These are individuals who are experts on your product and who have hundreds or thousands of followers. You need to interact with them, “retweet” their Twitter updates, comment on their pictures, etc. Handling this manually can be very time consuming, so you can always rely on automating these tasks.
People will discover your channels this way, but whether or not they follow you depends on how much your content relates to what they’re looking for. For that reason, the next step is critical.
#3 Create content
You can use paid ads, follow thousands of people, and be very active on your social media channels, and eventually you’ll get visitors. But how do you retain them? The answer is “content.” And the type of content that engages people most is photographs. The main reason for Facebook’s success relates to pictures. And photographs are the primary form of content used for both Instagram and Pinterest.
People have little time to read while on their Smartphones. This makes the familiar saying especially true: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Use stock photography sites such as Shutterstock.com to find images that relate to your product or service. Try to find beautiful pictures that will capture your visitors’ attention. You need to regularly post engaging content to keep your audience entertained and attract new followers.
#4 Respond to engagement
Once you’ve properly established your social media channels, created engaging content, and have thousands of followers, you’ll probably start receiving questions. And if you’re in the travel industry, you’ll probably receive a lot of complaints as well. Think of social media like another telephone in your call center. Your customers may write to you, instead of calling, to request a change or a refund, or to complain about the service they received.
When you talk with customers on your social media channels, try to separate the trolls from the legitimate customers, and keep in mind these five principles:
#5 Get good reviews
According to Nielsen, “70 percent of global consumers say online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising” and “46 percent of travelers posted hotel reviews.”
Reviews are critical for your brand awareness, and companies have never been more exposed to reviews since the creation of TripAdvisor and Yelp. It doesn’t matter if you believe that you don’t need to create a review account, somebody else will create it, and write a review of your company. And you have an 80 percent chance that the review is going to be bad, because people normally write reviews when they’re annoyed.
“I hate reviews. Before TripAdvisor I could charge a premium for my rooms just based on my brand. Now even five-star hotel rooms have been commoditized.” —CEO of a five-star hotel chain.
The best way to handle reviews is to take control of your main review channels: Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Facebook. Try to get good reviews from your loyal and happy customers. Perhaps you can offer them a little incentive to take precious time from their busy lives to share what they like about your product or service. This way you can neutralize the bad reviews. Remember that the moment you open the door to the online world you’re exposed to online critics, and your online sales and leads will be directly proportional to your online brand awareness.
At Amadeus, we’re very excited to help each of our customers grow their social media presence, and grow their business as well. For that reason, the Amadeus North America consulting team has put in place an innovative two-day social media workshop. In this deep-dive program, we help our customers with all of the techniques covered in this article. And with the right tools and strategies, you can succeed in the online world.
Do you have a social media strategy in place or need help in boosting your agency’s social media presence? Please contact our consulting team: firstname.lastname@example.org.