Tips & Techniques for Engaging Customers With Social Media

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Many organizations have realized the importance of integrating social media tools into their online customer engagement armamentarium. Among the tools that are being adopted are Twitter Feeds, Blogs, RSS Feeds, Facebook Pages, Myspace Pages, LinkedIn Profiles & Groups, Google Buzz and YouTube Channels. Some organizations, especially in the consumer space, are experimenting with location-based mobile check-in tools like Gowalla or the increasingly popular Foursquare, for generating loyalty-based engagement including recognizing the "Mayor" or highest utilizer or consumer of your service. You can find out more about Foursquare here.

Selecting which tools to adopt is going to vary based on your industry, organizational culture, resources you're willing to invest, the nature of the target audience(s) you are pursuing and most importantly your goals. For some organizations, it will mean embracing many of these social media tools, while for others, it will be adoption on a more selective basis. If you're relatively new to this space, you're going to want to start small and experiment with a limited number of tools once you've identified your goals.

Regardless of where you are on this continuum of tool adoption, it is critical to recognize that your objective isn't to simply promote your organization, products or services, but it is rather to engage interactively with prospects and customers to create a relationship that supports your objectives — whether sales, customer service, product development, market intelligence, etc. Developing this interaction can take time, especially as consumers become over-saturated or bored with social media interaction. Also, there are what Forrester calls "spectators" according to their position on the Social Technographic ladder, who are engaged through observation even if they are not directly creating content.

Regardless of the tools that you adopt for customer engagement, you need to put human, design and technology resources behind inviting engagement, generating and re-purposing content, generating and participating in conversations, monitoring conversations and responding throughout your organization to what you learn from this market interaction and dialogue. These tasks are far too important to delegate to low level staff, to interns or to be added to the workloads of already over-burdened employees. Savvy organizations have implemented empowered social media positions within their customer interfacing units, staffed by people knowledgeable about social media, your business, industry, customers and markets. Some organizations have brought in highly educated contractors to assist in this endeavor.

Not only must these resources be put into place, but the ways that your organization chooses to manage, promote and monitor customer engagement needs to be thought out and implemented carefully across all relevant channels. Let's look at some recommendations on what your organization should do to generate customer engagement with these tools.

  1. Participate in the main social media platforms — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube RSS feeds, Foursquare, Blogs, etc. — if they fit with your business strategy and target audiences.
     
  2. Select relevant and consistent social monikers, usernames or vanity URLs that fit with your business branding objectives. For example: Amdocs, the example site referenced later, uses AmdocsInc for all of their social media URLs.
    Twitter — http://twitter.com/AmdocsInc
    Facebook — http://www.facebook.com/amdocsinc
    YouTube — http://www.youtube.com/amdocsinc
    You can check on username availability at NameChk
     
  3. Integrate promotion about your social media initiatives in all relevant online and offline communication channels — tradeshows, print collateral, business stationery, online and print ads, web sites, microsites, blogs etc.

     

  4. Select tools that allow for multiple people to generate content and interact with consumers while providing an option of scheduled content release within the social media service. See Mashable for a list of 25 multi-author Twitter tools. My current preference for Twitter, is to use HootSuite, a Web-based utility that allows me to schedule tweets, manage multiple accounts and monitor keywords.
     
  5. Consider tools that allow for managing your social media involvement at all stages of the engagement process across multiple platforms. Some tools to evaluate for helping with this are:
    Ping.fm, on Twitter at @pingfm
    Social Oomph, on Twitter @socialoomph
    Sprinklr, on Twitter @sprinklr
    Vitrue, on Twitter @vitru.
     
  6. For your Web site, place your communication about customer engagement tools on your home page above the fold (see Amdocs example below). This signals the importance of customer engagement in your organization and more importantly encourages busy consumers/businesses to engage with you more easily.
     
  7. For your Web site, use social media logos to promote and link to your social networks, microblogging, RSS feeds to generate engagement (see Amdocs example below). Don't just use text links to communicate your participation in social media.
     
  8. Remember to monitor social media channels for positive and negative product and service mentions, for customer intelligence, for competitive market intelligence and for overall buzz. Many of the tools referenced above provide this utility. You can also find out more in this previous article on the Web Chef Café "What's the Buzz? Tell Me What's a Happening".

Let's look at a B2B company, Amdocs, that has done a nice job of integrating Social Media into their Web strategy.

Here's their homepage:

From the home page you can click on any of 4 social media logos to get to the specific social media services they are using. They cleverly define the respective customer interaction for each service: Twitter = follow; Facebook = chat; YouTube = watch; LinkedIn = network.

Amdocs YouTube Channel

Amdocs LinkedIn Group

Amdocs Facebook Page

Amdocs Twitter Account

Notice that on their Twitter account they are using a background that compliments their Web site, have included a Web link and a bio identifying the goals of the site.

To find out more about trends, techniques and resources for your marketing strategies and tactics follow me on Twitter @thewebchef.

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