Social media marketing entails more than just spreading a companies message through tools like Facebook and Twitter. It is also about brand and reputation management and using those things as marketing opportunities through platforms such as those previously mentioned. Social media marketing is often able to transcend traditional marketing campaigns because it utilizes sources other than the marketing department.
The customer service department is an unlikely place for social media marketing to happen, but because of the public nature of social networks, it can be a great place for brand defense and word of mouth marketing to happen, all because the customer service department is on the ball and handling customer complaints.
Here is an example of how social media marketing usually works:
1) A customer has a complaint with their satellite service provider. They send a tweet out, which is seen by their 750 followers: “Channel 213 is out, and right before the big game. Stupid satellite company. Been sitting on hold for past 30 minutes.”
2) The satellite company is monitoring Twitter, and they respond with a message of apology and an offer to help. They may even offer to call the customer themselves, or ask them to send a direct message outlining the problem.
3) After a few direct messages back and forth, the satellite company is able to diagnose the problem. It is something wrong with the company’s equipment. In the meantime, they tell the customer to switch to an alternate channel which is carrying the same game.
4) The customer is very happy. Not only does he feel heard, but he is now able to watch the game. He tweets out, “Satellite company just told me to switch to channel 271 for the game while they fix the problem. They will have the old channel up and running by halftime.” (This is brand defense.)
5) The customer’s friends are also interested in watching the game, so not only do they switch to the new channel, but they retweet the message to their own friends. This also tells other viewers where they can find the new channel (this is word of mouth marketing).
But the biggest benefit this has is in social media marketing. By telling his friends and followers, the original customer spreads the message (word of mouth marketing) that his satellite provider was responsive and helpful (brand defense).
Their customer service response became a social media marketing function, because the customer told everyone about it. His friends and followers — who he has a relationship with, and who trust him — are more willing to listen to him if he ever recommends that satellite provider.
This is because people have begun ignoring traditional marketing messages, preferring instead to believe their friends and social media connections for recommendations. The lesson for brands that want to use social media marketing is that they need to have trusted relationships with their customers. It means they have to communicate with them in something more than advertising slogans and special offers.
Brands that successfully use social media marketing talk with their customers about things other than just their product or service. They answer questions in their industry, help customers solve problems, and even recommend them to other companies to find solutions.
Proper social media marketing makes companies someone more than just a faceless marketer whose only interest is the bottom line. It makes them evangelists and advocates for the customers. It also shows that the company is willing to look out for their customers, listen to them, and have their best interests at heart. And so who do the customers buy from? The companies that show more interest in them than in their wallets.
Ultimately, social media marketing is about forming relationships with customers and potential customers. It takes more work than billboards and brochures, but it has a better ROI and can even improve sales where traditional marketing cannot. Social media marketing is becoming a more popular channel for companies, because it can encompass more than just traditional marketing. Customer service, public relations, and even research and development are all social media marketing channels now.