Two cents’ worth from InkHead Promotional Products: Want to use social media on the Internet to its fullest capacity for your small business? Engage your customers and give them something to do.
Studies have shown that companies seeking to raise their profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and other social-networking sites would do better to ditch one-way advertising in favor of a strategy of active two-way engagement. As this blog has discussed before, this means adopting a friendlier, more conversational online presence that shows that potential respondents are dealing with a person rather than a company rep.
A good analogy for this can be seen in the example of the shopping site Zappos.com, which has a policy of allowing its customer service associates to work without scripts and to troubleshoot with autonomy, thus making its customers feel more comfortable and insuring return business. This is what those commercials with the puppets are all about, showing that Zappos customers can expect to deal with a person, not a policy. It’s a strategy that has paid off handsomely, with Zappos showing unprecedented growth in the last couple of years, even in the current economy.
InkHead incorporates the same philosophy. None of our Promotions Specialists works from a script, and we’ve received much positive customer feedback for our reps’ skills at creative problem-solving. Just saying.
Another point the marketing field is stressing pretty consistently is that potential social-media customers respond to online coupons and other money-saving opportunities, especially when those opportunities require their active involvement. Recently the Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo hit upon a nifty idea to raise their market share in the UK using Twitter. In advance of a relaunch of their British online store, Uniqlo started a promotion called “Lucky Counter,” in which 10 items were previewed online with each item linked to a tweet. For every Twitter response to each tweet, the price of that particular item dropped. The more responses, the cheaper the clothing items became, so that when the site officially opened, some items had been discounted by 60%. The payoff for Uniqlo was threefold: a sharp rise in Twitter traffic, remarkably heavy traffic for the site relaunch, and intense interest in the company itself — all of it money in the bank and done without spending a yen or a shilling.
All of this makes perfect sense when we consider just what social networking is all about: provoking response.
On Facebook and Twitter and other less blog-heavy sites, we receive an endless steady stream of short reports about people’s days and adventures. Since most of us have found we’ve reached out to more “friends” than we can possibly keep up with, we inevitably gloss over much of our incoming feeds. I tend to ignore anything about how my friends did in Mafia Wars or the minutiae of their daily lives that are so prosaic there’s nothing to be said about them. By that same token, a promotional post or tweet that only tells people what you’re selling is the advertising equivalent of “I’m having a tuna sandwich for lunch.” Your social-network audience knows what you sell; it’s presumably why they friended you to begin with. What they notice is something they can respond to.
Although still relatively nascent to businesses, the social networks Facebook and Twitter have already become saturated with companies and organizations that do little to engage their audience. Instead, they focus on announcing deals and specials as well as what it is customers can find on their websites. While it is important that your customers can glean relatively easily what it is your company offers from your tweets or Facebook posts, it should not be the only thing you use these sites for.
Instead, you should use Facebook and Twitter to connect with prospects, collaborate with colleagues, and most importantly, care for your clients. To be sure, it’ s a difficult balance to strike, but once you have, you will a see marvelous return on investment.
What’s more, tying your Promotional Gifts into your social media campaign can increase customer engagement in a number of ways. How might you use custom promotional goods to further your brand?
Want to learn more? Check out this post from Mashable on how CEOs are using social media to promote their business, an article I guest-wrote for Web Devils on engaging your customers on Twitter, and this article from GigaOM on how much time you should devote to social media marketing.