Creating Long Term Relationships Requires More Than Just Swiping Right
In his 2011 book, The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk predicted that in order to survive most (if not all) companies would have to embrace a new way of doing business. The rise of social media required a change in how brands think about their business and their customers. Gary (can I call you Gary?) predicted, and accurately so, that the number of people using social media would only continue to grow and that businesses, in order to stay relevant in this new marketplace would need to adopt social media as a means to create personal relationships. In his book he says, “It is imperative that brands and businesses learn how to properly and authentically use social media to develop one-to-one relationships with their customer base- no matter how big- so that they make an impact in their market, now and in the future” (p. 5).
For businesses today, the idea of social media marketing is far from revolutionary. Heck, it isn’t even a conversation people have anymore. We no longer talk about IF we should be on social, but HOW. We talk about how many times each day we should post on each platform, we argue about the best way to optimize images, and the ideal amount of words in a headline. But are we missing out on the most important part of Gary’s phenomenal book? Instead of the focus on HOW (as you already know, there are plenty of “How To” blogs) this post is going to talk more about the WHY we should be doing social media marketing. I want to talk about the intent; what is it we hope to accomplish?
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH SOCIAL
It is no surprise that a major cultural shift like the advent of social media dramatically altered the communication between brands and customers. For the last 40 years, messaging was controlled by advertising and limited to very few platforms. Essentially, companies had a captive audience to talk at instead of with. Communication was limited to newspaper and print, T.V commercials, and radio, with the occasional product opportunistically placed in a movie or T.V show.
However, social media changed all that. In a post about copywriting, ADWEEK did an excellent job describing this transition:
Consumer habits are always evolving, but the advent of social media has transformed the marketing landscape in its relatively short existence faster and more drastically than any time before. Personalized experiences are practically gospel now, and content marketing should be no different.
It’s not that marketers didn’t see the value in personalization in the past, but before social media, the channels available to marketers were simply too inflexible to develop a truly personalized campaign.
Real personalization is about evoking a positive, emotional reaction, which helps build brand loyalty. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to build and strengthen this relationship.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH CUSTOMERS MATTER
There are many possible answers to the question, “What is it we hope to accomplish through social media marketing?” and I would add in social listening as the two typically go hand-in-hand. I would venture to guess that the majority of the answers revolve around business goals. We are on social for a broader distribution channel of branded content and messaging. Or, we do social listening to measure success/failure of various marketing campaigns. There are a plethora of reasons to invest in social; however, would we approach it differently if our intent was not to accumulate data or measure KPIs or evaluate ROI, but rather to build relationships?
Gary V argued that social media, along with many other business related perks, gave businesses an amazing opportunity to “develop one-to-one relationships with their customer base.” And he isn’t alone. Marketing guru Mark Schaefer wrote an entire book about maximizing the creation and shareability of quality content. He contends that one of the best ways to “ignite your content” is to create what he calls an “Alpha Audience.” Basically, an Alpha Audience is the elite 2 percent of your audience that devours your content, evangelizes on your behalf, and is a chronic sharer of everything you produce. This group is extremely powerful and simultaneously extremely difficult to cultivate.
Here’s a case study from Mark’s book to show the power of an Alpha Audience.
In the book, Mark tells the story of trying to raise money for a charity. He said it was the first and last time he would use his social influence to ask for donations. He wrote one blog post explaining the situation and promoting the cause. From this one post, he was able to raise $6,000 in 48 hours for the charity. Impressive right?
Some important numbers:
- Post was shared nearly 750 times
- Only 92 people donated
- This means that more than 650 people encouraged others to donate without doing anything themselves
- Of the 92 that donated, he had met 80 in real life through conferences and meetings
- Of his 70k Twitter following, only 12 people who he did not know donated
- He was able to get two “social media heavyweights” (one had an audience of more than 100k and another with an audience of 500k) to tweet out the link to his blog and support the charity
- These two influencers generated more than 3 million Twitter impressions. However, all this activity led to only ONE donation
- Celebrity influencer conversion rate on Twitter was 1:3,000,000
The point of this is not to dismiss influencer marketing, which can be very influential and under the right circumstances can generate significant traffic and sales. The point is to show that despite the large social followings, it was the very small, intimate relationships that stepped up to donate. While accruing followers is certainly a sign that you are doing something right, it certainly does not mean you are doing social the right way or that any of those followers have any loyalty to your brand or cause.
Social media gives us unprecedented opportunities to foster these relationships with customers all over the world.
AN OLD, BUT ENTIRELY RELEVANT CASE STUDY
As I was talking to coworkers about this post, you know, anything to avoid actually writing it, my manager told me this amazing story about steak and customer service. You may already know where I’m headed, but don’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t heard it yet.
Here’s a very rough paraphrase followed by a few quotes shamelessly copied and pasted from the primary source.
Like I said, this is an old story. It was originally published in 2011. I know. 2011 seems like it was at least 6 or 7 years ago. After a long day (according to the article it started at 3:30am) Peter Shankman was getting on a plane in Florida to head back home to Newark. He realized that by the time his two-hour flight landed he would be hungry and by then it would be too late to stop and get food on the way home. A self-proclaimed steak fanatic, Peter jokingly tweeted out to Morton’s Steakhouse asking them to meet him at the airport in Newark with a steak.
This was obviously not a realistic request. Just like tweeting to summer to stop being so hot. But anyway, he turns off his phone, boards the plane and doesn’t think twice about it.
You know where this is headed, don’t you?
He lands expecting only to find his driver and go home after a long day. However, he is completely taken by surprise with a tuxedo’d waiter holding a Morton’s bag. Peter explains it like this
“Alex, from Morton’s Hackensack walks up to me, introduces himself, and hands me a bag. He proceeds to tell me that he’d heard I was hungry, and inside is a 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, an order of Colossal Shrimp, a side of potatoes, one of Morton’s famous round things of bread, two napkins, and silverware.”
Pretty amazing right? Like unbelievable customer service typically reserved for superstar celebrities. Now, Peter is a pretty big deal. He has a lot of followers on social media and probably has a bit of pull. People pointed out that fact and brushed the whole thing off as a publicity stunt. He disagrees
“But you know what? I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think it’s about my follower numbers. I think it’s about Morton’s knowing I’m a good customer, who frequents their establishments regularly. If you look at their Twitter stream, Morton’s is known for always being on the ball, thanking those who mention they’re eating there.”
The moral of the story?
“Stay on top of what people are saying about you. Respond accordingly. Perhaps most importantly, have a chain of command in place that actually lets you do these things in real time. Had Morton’s had to get permission to make this happen, at 5:10 pm on a Wednesday night, there’s no way it ever would have.”
More important that your Twitter following, or how many comments you get on a post, is how you treat your customers. While not something they can do for every single customer, Morton’s used Twitter to create a personal one-on-one relationship with a customer. He already an affinity for their steak. He was already loyal. But now he is certainly a life-long evangelist on their behalf. How many people read that post and saw his tweets and decided to give them a try? They created a relationship that matters.
A LESSON IN SOCIAL MEDIA FROM TACO BELL
Think what you will about the food, but Taco Bell is killing it on social media. This is a company that knows their audience and has worked to develop a personal relationship with them. In an interview for PR News, Matt Prince, Taco Bell’s PR + brand engagement manager, explains their strategy. “We gained ground on social when we took away promotional posts, for the most part,” the focus, he emphasizes, is to “talk with our audience as a friend would talk to a friend. We’ve removed company jargon and focused on what our fans were saying and how they were saying it.”
Prince’s take on user-generated content was especially insightful.
“If you go to Twitter,” he says, “we’re basically repurposing content that’s already out there. A lot of what we do is retweet user-generated content or posts, videos, images and other material that fans are already doing. We’re just giving [fans] a larger stage to share it on.”
“Will [the brand retweeting that photo] get people to go to Taco Bell? Not necessarily. But it casts the brand in a really great light in that Taco Bell is at a place in the culture where a high school senior wants to take his graduation pictures at a Taco Bell. And we see that all the time.”
More important, the user generated content provides an authenticity for the brand. “[Retweeting] that [photo] will raise brand awareness and give the brand a place to live and thrive in a way promotional posts just can’t do,” he says.
Also, watch this video and tell me they don’t know their audience.
HOW CAN SOCIAL LISTENING HELP CREATE RELATIONSHIPS?
In conclusion, the intent behind the activity matters. While there are plenty of business metrics to measure and data to acquire, social media is an opportunity to connect with your audience like never before. Social listening, the process of monitoring specific keywords as they are used in various social networks, brings you one step closer to creating that Alpha Audience. When you engage with your audience on a one-on-one basis you are showing them that they matter to you. Essentially, you are turning the masses into individuals. An aggressive social listening campaign, when done for the right reason, can bridge the gap between your brand and your audience. Going back to Gary V’s book for something to think about when presented with a conversation about justifying the ROI of an investment in social media listening:
The ROI of a company’s engagement with a customer scales in proportion to the bonds of the relationship. The ROI of your relationship with your mother is going to be much higher than that of the one you have with a good friend. Both, however, are more valuable than the one you have with an acquaintance, which trumps the relationship you have with a stranger. Without social media, you and your customer are relegated to strangers; with it, depending on your efforts, you can potentially upgrade your relationship to that of casual acquaintances, and even, in time, to friends. The power of that relationship can go so far as to convert a casual browser into a committed buyer, or a buyer into an advocate (p55).
If you are interested in creating relationships with customers, social media and social listening are essential tools. We now have the ability to listen to and respond to our customers in real-time. If you are interested in a demo or having a conversation about how NUVI can help you begin the process of relationship building, contact us today.