Online influence can take many forms, the most well-known being Celebrity Influencers, Employee Advocacy and Micro-Influencers (click here for more on influencers). In this article, though, we are going to look at one form of influence that is not talked about as often, namely, Customer Influence. More specifically, we discuss the power of customer influence for your brand.
The Power of Customer Influence
What makes something trend online? A high level of online engagement (likes, shares, comments) by people. What turns something into an online crisis? Widespread negative sentiment, again, by people online. This illustrates the power that customer influence has on a brand’s image online. This, in turn, effects business results such as sales and customer retention. Customer influence is closely linked to the Customer Experience (or CX) approach which is increasingly becoming the primary focus of business strategies across all industries.
| Quick Stat: 61% of consumers said they would be more likely to research a product or service recommended on social by a friend [Sprout]
Types of Customer Influence
Online activity can take the form of both unpaid and paid influence:
>> Unpaid influence is simply users voicing their feelings about a product, service or brand. This could be either positive or negative, based on their own experiences. Some users will comment on a brand’s business pages while others may post on their own pages either recommending or trashing a brand to their own network.
>> Paid influence is when a brand enlists the services of a micro influencer to post positive messages about the brand, usually via their social media pages. For example, a new mother raving about a baby product brand. Since the influencer is not an actual celebrity or brand ambassador, the messages appear to be their own personal opinions. Also, such messages are posted organically and don’t have the tell-tale “sponsored” tab that accompanies typical paid advertising.
Importance of Customer Influence
Quite frankly, customer influence could potentially make or break a business. People tend to react more strongly to posts from their contacts or trusted sources over brand-based messaging. Large scale negative sentiment on social media often leads to a crisis that could seriously harm a brand’s reputation. On the other hand, happy customers generate a brilliant form of word-of-mouth marketing on social media (aka marketing-on-steroids). This not only boosts business goals like sales, but ever-important positive brand affinity as well.
| Quick Stat: According to a study done by Forbes, 81% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts [Social Media Today]
How to Drive Positive Customer Influence
It’s a no-brainer: simply provide great service and products to your clients both online and offline. It’s all about creating an excellent experience throughout the client’s entire journey with the brand. From a social media perspective, here are some ways to boost positive customer sentiment:
User-centric content: Post good quality, engaging content that has high user value, like blog articles, tips and how-to guides. Such content is likely to delight users. User reaction to content will indicate what your audience likes best (or doesn’t care for).
Be adaptable: Take your cues from your customer, and adapt content and/or service based on their demands. This may mean adding or removing posts. Effectively manage online conversations for maximum client satisfaction.
Be responsive: Respond to client queries quickly and professionally. Remember, people often turn to social media after failing to get service via telephone or email. Even a complaint can be transformed to a positive experience for the customer if handled efficiently (click to read more). Engage with your clients when it comes to positive feedback, “likes”, etc.
Crisis Management: Have a process and plan in place to tackle negative commentary before it becomes a crisis. In the unfortunate event that it does, have an available network of experts at hand to mitigate risk. Read more…
Use paid micro-influencers: Use carefully selected micro-influencers that are relevant to your brand and audience. Ensure that they are well vetted, and that all content is approved before publishing.
Employee Amplification: Assist your company employees to be active on social media on behalf of your brand. Provide them with digital tools and resources to share on their social media pages should they come across a relevant question or query. Also, support them to report and provide feedback on negative online commentary. Read more….
Basically, people will complain about poor service, and rave about excellence. Social media typically amplifies and extends these messages. The key to driving positive customer influence is to constantly and consistently exceed expectations. Ensure that your social media content and platforms are managed by experienced and skilled social media specialists to help you achieve this.
Need help driving business goals? Social Media 101 offers custom solutions to suit your brand. CLICK HERE to get in touch with us.
Social media has connected the world and has provided a platform for consumers and businesses to engage, publicly and privately on an open platform. This provides great opportunity for all involved, and also great risk.
A social media crisis management strategy is critical for businesses of any nature or scale and should be considered very seriously and with high priority. This strategy will assist your company in navigating a potential social media crisis, providing pre-prepared guides and best practices to weather the storm. Effectively anyone is at risk and everyone should be prepared where we should all hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.
How to mitigate online risk:
>> Hire skilled social media managers, whether in-house or outsourced, who are able to identify a potential storm. They will act as your early warning system; however, it is also important to note that not every negative comment is a crisis and so a grading and escalation system should be decided ahead of time.
>> Draft, review and implement social media policies for all employees within your organisation. Education is key, so ensure to upskill your staff to keep themselves safe online and your company free from risk. Your team will also need to know what to do in the event of an online crisis.
>> Implement an employee advocacy program where you upskill and enable your employees to be first line of contact. Equip them to be able to refer potential clients within their network, respond to queries and detect any potential crisis on the horizon.
>> Consider industry scenarios that could expose your business to online scrutiny and prepare for these ahead of time. Ensure your organisation is able to be agile in these instances and implement processes to support this.
>> The best way to mitigate risk is to be transparent and truthful. Clients, customers and consumers want to feel like you have their best interest at heart and know that where they are investing, they feel valued.
It is important to be prepared, and we recommend that you enlist the support of a team of professionals to assist in implementing a robust social media crisis management strategy. Consider your legal team, HR Managers, PR consultants and social media specialists to assist and also ensure that they are agile to respond and support in the event of an online crisis.
Social media is not all negative and with innovative strategies can truly drive business objectives since the platforms have the ability to support the entire customer journey.
Need assistance setting up a crisis management plan? We can help – CLICK HERE to contact Social Media 101
When you look at a high-rise building, what do you see? Sturdy walls, beautiful architecture, stunning finishes, and so forth. But what you don’t see is the groundwork or base, even though the building’ s stability and longevity weighs heavily (excuse the pun) on the strength of its foundation.
Similarly, for your social media activities to succeed, you need a strong foundation i.e. a social media strategy. A well researched; developed and executed strategy can make a huge, tangible impact to the business. This article delves into the reasons why a social media strategy is a must for all businesses.
Why you need a social media strategy.
The first step is to look at the way you view social media. It is not just an online billboard to market your products and services. Think of each of your social media pages as a dedicated channel to showcase your brand to your ideal target market of prospects and existing clients. This information can take the form of different content and media types based on your priorities. Your social media accounts act as valuable business platforms used to promote your key objectives. Content on these platforms should therefore be strategically planned for maximum business benefits.
Here are some points to consider when it comes to brand’s social media presence:
All business functions should serve a purpose or achieve a goal. The same goes for social media activities. You need to define what business objectives you want to achieve via your social media platforms. Note that these are not limited to purely marketing goals, but rather, the core focus areas of the organisation as a whole. Bench-marking should be set by having expectations of the outcomes per objective.
Planning needs to not only focus on short- and medium-term business goals. It needs to also lay the foundation for long term brand objectives. These could include the way the brand is perceived, increased brand affinity, brand market positioning, other growth-related factors. Remember that your social media posts form part of an ongoing timeline, and this should reflect long term brand goals.
Brand Corporate Identity
Your social media pages need to reflect brand corporate identity (CI) and ethos. This is done by ensuring all content is in line with pre-defined criteria in terms of communication tone, visual factors, design style and type of content. In addition, all content needs to have a standard of quality. Consumers make snap judgements based on their perceptions – make sure your brand is perceived as a quality brand both offline AND online.
Unfortunately, many businesses put out content based on their needs and preferences. This tactic is not effective with online audiences. Instead, research into consumer wants and needs should form the basis of content planning. Social media platforms themselves provide insight into market, industry and customer behaviour. These reports and data metrics show the techniques that yield the best results. You are also able to set up your own A/B or marketing testing activities based on your required criteria or priorities.
Return on Investment – measurement
The success rates of most traditional business activities are assessed by analysing data and tangible outcomes. For some reason, the same approach is seldom used when it comes to social media. Whether your social media management is handled in-house or is outsourced, you need to know what you are getting out of it. As mentioned above, you first need to set objectives based on a defined timeframe. At the end of this period, you need to review the success of activities in order to ascertain your return value. Be sure to use reliable and useful engagement-based metrics that aid in decision-making (click here for more on social media metrics).
Many brands do not invest sufficient time and resources into their social media activities. Some companies assign the management of their accounts to junior staff members with limited experience on how the platforms work. Considering that a social media business page often has much more reach and impact than any other single business touchpoint, this is quite concerning.
Social media is a valuable business tool and should be viewed as such. Once you capitalise on the opportunities that social media has to offer for your brand, you will see the value of using your platforms in a strategy-based manner to drive your business goals.
Are you ready to take your social media to the next level? Contact Social Media 101 for everything from strategic planning to full scale social media content creation & management. CLICK HERE to get in touch with us.
Social media, an ever-expanding online universe of tweets and blue ticks, connections and conversations, followers and fallouts. We are all well submerged into social media and there is no denying that it is unlikely to go away any time soon.
The Short History of Social Media
In tech terms and lighting speed evolution, social media can express historical progress to what we know it as today. Mostly starting out in university dorm-rooms and presenting itself as a forum for groups to connect online, social media still very much has this same initial vision just with a lot larger groups and a lot more options. In its simplest form, social media provides a platform for all users to search for, connect and engage with niche communities – users being businesses too.
The challenge is with the volume of information, the sheer size of possible audiences and the never-ending need to stay connected. How does a brand decide which platforms to use to connect with their required niche audiences of clients, customers and prospects?
A Guide to the Galaxy of Social Media
It is fair to say that in all this enormity, we can drill down on the top 5 social media platforms since these are the most well-known and, more importantly, most widely used. Just to disclaim that last statement, this is not to say that these big 5 will be forever. As mentioned earlier, social media is ever-expanding and there is no guarantee that it could evolve (within our lifetime) to something different, but with the same vision.
While immersed in our online safari, we typically see the big 5 as being Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Let’s look at each of these in more detail in terms of their unique role in this ecosystem and typical behaviors:
The granddaddy of all social media platforms. Not quite first to market but definitely leveraging off all longevity tactics and currently with the biggest user base of 2 Billion active users worldwide. With one in three humans having an active Facebook account, the same ratio is seen in South Africa with 17 Million active users. People turn to Facebook as a way of keeping abreast of close-knit communities within this global village. Most users frequent the platform to see uploads and updates from their closest friends, family members and acquaintances.
Facebook is by far the most superior of all platforms in terms of its data capturing and targeting abilities meaning for brands there is really little to no wastage when serving content to your specific niche audience. The platform also offers the most innovative and flexible content options supporting a whole host of different ways to get your message across. Because of this extensive data and massive captivated audience, Facebook should always be considered as the primary platform for any business.
The estranged stepchild of social media has had a chance to be great and we suppose it is, in its own right. Twitter is widely used for news updates, current affairs and customer service. It can be overwhelming with the sheer volume of content and in some cases be quite a dark place to frequent however if for your business customer service is imperative then Twitter is a no brainer. Aggrieved customers are likely to turn to Twitter after frustratingly taking steps to have their concerns addressed and resolved. They do this because of the volume and quick fire response that the platform enables. With the average lifespan of a tweet being 15 minutes, these updates are also the internet tinder that could catch a crisis a send a bush fire expanding out to the rest of the big 5.
Twitter users pride themselves in the news to Twitter first landscape of the platform where most of the others only catch on to newsworthy topics a few hours or even days later. It is not all doom and gloom since the internet tinder can also spread good, like seeds sprayed from a low flying plane to replenish a scorched earth. Live event coverage, influencers and listening campaigns provide opportunities for brands to inform, engage and delight their customers through Twitter. It is a balancing act for businesses, however integrity and transparency are key in keeping out of the Twitter CSI spotlight.
This platform can be likened to the darling of all platforms with its lustrous flow of never ending Rapunzel-like timelines, dotted with gorgeous sunsets, sublime cuisine and equally stunning influential personalities. Its captured the hearts and cameras of the younger generation and we are keen to see what this platform could evolve and grow up to become. For businesses, it’s a little trickier… Facebook bought out Instagram recently, meaning the same rich data which Facebook holds, is the same for Instagram users.
The challenge here is that the platform relies solely on visual impact where the promotional qualities of the platform really only enable brands to gain post likes and comments. The best news in all of this is that through Facebook, brands are able to promote content onto Instagram without having a set up or active page on the platform. We wouldn’t consider it the go-to social media platform in all industries unless lawyers and accountants can figure out extremely creative ways of presenting their legal cases and balance sheets in photo format. There are however creative ways of expressing a brand on Instagram that could still drive user engagement.
The boss of social media, LinkedIn of late is really stepping up and coming to the party. Their platform was traditionally stuffed into a recruiter paradise where users knew the relevance of having a LinkedIn profile, but only checked into the platform when they happened upon a connection request. In the last six months or so and with the platform’s buy-out by Microsoft, LinkedIn has rapidly started to introduce additional functionality and is definitely the platform to watch. Now, users are likely to peruse LinkedIn for insightful business anecdotes and opinions by their connections. They see this platform as a place that levels the playing field of the hierarchal traditional business structure; now anyone can connect with any CEO of any multi-national and/or blue-chip business – this is power!
Personal brands are becoming more and more required on LinkedIn where now everyone is considering the professionalism of their online persona. For businesses, we are still waiting for equally innovative functionality and targeting abilities like Facebook, but for now if you operate in the B2B space, LinkedIn is a must! That is not to say that B2C businesses and brands should turn their nose up at LinkedIn because relevant messaging could still find its way to those consumers, especially since aren’t we all consumers anyway?
The wise advisor and also Mr Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, YouTube takes on multiple personalities dependent on what trip the user is after. Effectively a relevant platform to consider with SEO as when users Google a question, they are expecting an answer; where relevant, YouTube could provide a quick and easy-to-follow how to user guide – if this is relevant to your business and/or industry. Being only video content, YouTube can be seen as the big brother to Instagram where users can delve into a long and drawn out rabbit hole in collecting information. It is fair to say, however, that the content does not need to be anything ground breaking or earth shattering on YouTube since there are viral anomalies that pop up all the time. Who knew Justin Bieber got famous out of a YouTube video?
For businesses, YouTube is a great library platform to host informative content and, if necessary, your TV commercials for stakeholder reference. It is important to state at this late stage that snap judgements are hard and cruel on social media and brands should always consider the quality of the content being produced and posted. Video of course comes with a higher price tag, but when done properly can prove fruitful returns for a brand.
Choosing the right platforms for a business can be equally easy and difficult, however it really comes down to knowing your customers. Effectively the same person is on all of these platforms, however they look to each platform to fulfil a different need. It’s the brand’s responsibility to realise that social media provides a platform to speak to the right person, with the right message at the right time. Content is king, context is queen and value reigns above all. In this space quality far outweighs quantity, so when considering your social media strategy, choose platforms where you are confident in delivering quality content consistently to customers as opposed to just posting, everywhere, for the sake of it.
As a social media consultancy, Social Media 101 are skilled in guiding our clients to choosing the right platforms. We are solution minded and driven by results meaning if you win, we win too. Should you wish to talk more on social media and delve deeper into these platforms and how they could work for your business, feel free to reach out. CLICK HERE to contact Social Media 101.