Social marketing is a hot term right now, defined by Forrester as “the use of social tactics, media, tools and technologies across all components of the marketing mix: product, price, promotion, and placement.” Social marketing includes a wide variety of activities happening in social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as in online communities. Online communities are hubs where people with shared interests can communicate, get support and build relationships; they can be a company’s entire website or a specific section of the site.
Online communities take social networking beyond Twitter and Facebook and into an owned property that allows companies to connect with customers on a more individual level. In an online community, a company can control the customer experience in a whole new way. It can connect its customers to its employees and other customers, as well as provide them with content and support. And through the use of common social media applications such as wikis, forums, media galleries and more, businesses can create communities that help customers share and access information easily.
The culmination of all of these activities helps a company foster stronger customer relationships, augment awareness of the brand, build brand loyalty and increase sales efforts. Megan Yunker, vice president of marketing at Telligent, a provider of enterprise social software, identifies six use cases of social marketing that companies can apply to their social networks and online communities.
Click through for six social marketing use cases that can be applied to your own social networks and online communities to foster stronger customer relationships, augment awareness of your brand, build brand loyalty and increase sales, as identified by Megan Yunker, vice president of marketing at Telligent.
Social networks and online communities are full of valuable insights and information that can help brands learn about their customers. Companies can also leverage social applications, such as polls, Q&A discussions, reviews, forums and comments within their online communities to gather additional information and spot trends. For example, when they know what their customers care about and what to ask them about, businesses can create surveys or polls and use the resulting feedback to shape new product ideas or enhancements.
As previously introduced, customers are vital to the innovation process. It is important for companies to stay on top of their customers’ needs and wants, and much of that information can be gathered from social networks and online communities. For example, a company can use its online community as a platform to gather feedback on its products and services to improve upon them or create new ones. It can also run ideas by its community to determine what resonates with its customers. For example, customers can submit ideas within the online community and get other members to vote and comment on them. In order to encourage participation, companies can announce the most popular ideas at their conferences, or provide gifts, like free access to one of their services, to active contributors.
Many customers view service and support as top priorities in their evaluations of a company. Online communities allow customers access to the people, information and advice they need to feel supported. For example, customers can post questions within the community and get answers from company employees or other customers. This results in customers sharing resources and advice with each other, plus a better customer experience.
Online communities can act as platforms to connect people with shared interests, hobbies or professions. An online community provides a place to ask questions, share ideas, get advice and connect with compatible people. This provides a company with the opportunity to unite industry experts, employees and customers, and provide an engaging customer experience. For example, a company that provides golf apparel can use its online community to connect its customers with other golf lovers to discuss the game, apparel, gear and company itself.
Online communities provide customers with a place to discuss and showcase their skills, tips and advice with other community members on both personal and professional topics. This is because people are more eager to share their knowledge and experiences with others who are in the same professional field or have similar interests. A company can think of its online community as a resource for its customers to gather information that is not readily accessible through brief online searches. For example, an online community can serve as a support system and resource center for customers to help each other set and achieve goals within their personal professions or hobbies.
Online communities can be resources for prospective customers to learn about companies and their products. It is important to have documentation, reviews, ratings and other information readily accessible in the online community. For example, prospective customers can search online communities to evaluate products, discuss recommendations with peers, read case studies and ask questions.