How Brands Use Social Media to Enhance the Customer Experience

Social media is no longer optional for businesses wishing to grow and compete in their industry. A survey published by eMarketer last October found that 88 percent of companies with 100-plus employees currently utilize social media for marketing purposes. Despite 52 percent of companies saying it’s nearly impossible to measure ROI on social media marketing, a majority will increase spending on mediums in 2015, according to a study by Gigaom.

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Instead of measuring returns by profits, companies are utilizing social media to enhance the overall customer experience. A good customer experience means positive word-of-mouth advertising and retention of brand loyalists. The 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report by RightNow Technologies found that 86 percent of customers were willing to pay more for similar products to a company that provides exceptional customer service.

Social media is a very public forum, so both positive and negative customer experiences voiced online can impact your bottom line. The following companies have provided blueprints on how to effectively use social media to improve customer relations.

JetBlue Rapid Response

Twitter and Facebook provide customers a real-time way to complain about your product or service in front of a large audience. Airlines are particularly vulnerable to online venting since flight delays are a common occurrence. Social media gives companies the opportunity to show they care.

JetBlue passenger Jennifer Kennedy tweeted her frustration about a 40 minute flight delay with no updates being given on January 14. A few minutes later, the company responded directly to her, offering both empathy and an update on the flight. Kennedy responded with appreciation for the fast response, along with her flight number. The plane was in the air a few minutes later.

The most impressive part of this exchange was the fact Kennedy’s original message was not addressed directly to @JetBlue. The airline’s social media administrators obviously follow all activity on Twitter mentioning its name. JetBlue ultimately retained a customer and showed others how the company does its best to address all concerns.

LifeLock Cares

Facebook user and Lifelock customer Mindy Lacey allegedly had a payday loan approved in her name that she never applied for. She posted her frustrations on Lifelock’s Facebook timeline, telling the company she should be canceling her account.

Despite the post being published after midnight, a company representative responded within an hour. They apologized for the inconvenience and reminded the customer of their $1 Million Total Service Guarantee which covers these types of instances. The response concluded with another apology and the company’s toll free number so the customer could call and start the process of remedying the issue.

Granted there are a lot of people who complain just to complain. But LifeLock makes it point to address these matters publicly. A Twitter user posted a complaint about someone stealing his identity. Once again, LifeLock quickly apologized and offered the 24 hour customer service number. These instances may seem trivial on the surface. But the footprint left behind for others to see makes it worth the trouble.

Pinterest Personality

Though rarely mentioned in the same breathe as Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest is actually the second-most powerful social network available. Pinterest directs more traffic to company websites than Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn and Google Plus combined, according to a 2013 analysis by social plugin developer Shareaholic.

Pinterest provides a platform for companies to convey a friendly and fun public image. Taco Bell pins photos of corporate ugly sweater days, jalapeno eating contests and in-store birthday parties for employees. UGallery, an online art exhibit, uses Pinterest to feature individual client’s work. Girl Scouts of America pin pictures of community service projects, including their members making care packages for homeless people and children suffering from cancer.

Regular engagement on social media gives companies instant feedback and opportunities to provide good customer experiences. The returns will ultimately be in the form of better loyalty and higher retention rates.

Measurement Basics for Facebook Pages

For all the work you put into running your Facebook page—updating statuses, responding to comments, updating information, creating events, answering messages, posting pictures, interacting with others’ posts—sometimes you might wonder just what it is you’re doing on your computer when there are so many other aspects of your business to worry about. Hey, we get it. But the power of Facebook and its humungous audience is not to be ignored. Fortunately, there are ways you can track how effective your Facebook campaign actually is.

There’s the immediate, of course. Just monitoring what type of posts garner the most likes and comments from your community can go a long way in determining what works and what doesn’t in the content that you share. Did attaching a photo to that update on your holiday hours generate more engagement than last year’s post with no photo? Bingo. That’s an easy one.

But Facebook has a bevy of tools that allow its page administrators to get deep in analytics. Monitoring how many likes a photo receives is just scratching the surface. We call them metrics and what they allow us to do is track nearly every aspect of the Facebook experience.

There are three main metrics that are the basics of Facebook’s Page Insights tool, easily accessible through your page admin tab. These are Page Likes, Post Reach, and Engagement.

In Page Likes, Facebook shows you not only how many likes you have in total but how many you received this week vs. last week.

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With Post Reach, the metric allows you to monitor both the total reach of your posts throughout the week—just how many people saw your post in their news feed—and also the number of people per post.

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In Engagement, you can analyze the action-related results of your posts. Engagement numbers are the metrics that show how many people clicked on a post, liked it, shared it, or left a comment.

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In utilizing the Page Insights tool, Facebook users are better equipped to view and analyze the effectiveness of their posts, enabling them to make any changes necessary for fostering a more engaged community. It should give you a better idea of just how much you’re getting in return for all that work you’ve been putting in.

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Rules for Creating an Engaging Corporate Video

We no longer live in a day where video advertising is cost prohibitive, being played solely before big screen movies or prime time TV shows. Websites, YouTube and Vimeo have made it economical and easy to have quality videos that carry important corporate messages. From HD professional video to stock footage to animation, there is a world of digital messaging available to your business. Just make sure that you follow some fundamental rules in creating your marketing media.

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Speak to Your Customer

There is a rule in psychology that you need to meet your clients where they are. This is true for marketing. You need to create a video that addresses the customer’s actual needs and not the ones that you want to create. Trust is one of the most important marketing emotions. In the finance industry, online videos are found to mediate trust for companies that are restructuring, a commonly disruptive organizational issue. But trust cannot be forced. A few years back, JetBlue had a flight delay issue that snowballed into a network-wide interruption in service that stranded customers for hours. Instead of offering customer platitudes, the CEO created a video apologizing, acknowledging the breach of trust. Because of this, JetBlue has been touted as a company that uses its digital engagement right.

Don’t Break the Bank

One video is not enough and your marketing budget should reflect several videos that are linked into one integrated marketing communication. Stock video distributors like Shutterstock offer licensing that is suitable for small business. It is partly scalable for businesses that have fewer than one million users but the video is high quality. Budget properly with a line item for Internet linkage to drive sales and brand reputation.

Everything Goes on YouTube

There are intangible perks to making sure that all of your video content ends up on YouTube. YouTube is owned by Google, the largest of the search engine aggregators. Google tends to give priority to itself so you video on YouTube will be indexed at the higher rankings. Also YouTube has become synonymous with participatory culture. By placing your content on YouTube, you are inviting others to join in on the discussion.

Keep It Natural

Whether creating an animated video or a mini-film, your content must use natural and prescriptive language. By using common but sophisticated language, your video will come off as dyadic, inducing trust in the statements that follow. This is especially important if you are using stock video with a voiceover since the auditory content will convey most of your marketing message. Think about the words first then find video content to match it.

Make It Good for Everyone

One way of creating a natural video that promotes your positive corporate culture is by highlighting social responsibility in your organization. Philanthropic activity makes for a beautiful and engaging story and content is still king when it comes to corporate videos. These types of stories lend themselves to developing trust, enhancing brand reputation. Take a look at the Starbucks website and you will find images and videos that paint a picture of a company that is committed to global responsibility. The marketing message that comes with it is that your coffee purchase supports good people that do good things.

How to Know if Social Media Efforts are Paying Off

Maybe because it’s still relatively new or maybe it’s because it’s intangible, but for whatever the reason, many businesses are still skeptical of the positive affects of running a strong social media campaign. The fact is that many people just don’t understand how to figure out how their social media efforts are paying off.

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For the biggest of social media skeptics, throwing around phrases like ‘community engagement’ is just not that impressive. While plenty of people understand the benefits of establishing a community online to where you can directly share your content, some bottom-line business owners just aren’t going to care how many ‘likes’ a photo receives. If you’re one of these types, there are other ways to observe the impact of your social media campaign and even ones that provide hard numbers to analyze and use to affect changes in your business.

Some social media websites, like Facebook, include analytics functions built into the user experience. As page admin, you can track your impact to see what your followers respond to. Both Facebook and Twitter allow you to purchase ads that will make your posts more visible, the impact of which are also easily trackable.

Still, tracking Facebook and Twitters just don’t mean that much to some. Skeptics may want to turn to a numbers analysis program like Google Analytics. Like many of the services it offers, Google’s analytics program is free. It can be of enormous help to a business person and especially so when they’re trying to better understand their social media numbers. For example, a business owner can use Google Analytics to track how many customers visit their online store by way of a Facebook ad. That’s just not possible with a hard copy advertisement in the Sunday paper.

Of course, one way to measure the impact of a hard copy advertisement is the coupon. Count how many coupons are collected and you have numbers to analyze and use to modify future actions. Coupons are equally effective via social media. Post a coupon or special deal, your customers will print them out and bring them to the store, and you can see first hand the impact of a social media campaign when done right.

Getting Started with Twitter for Business

Like most entrepreneurs, chances are you didn’t start your own business so you could run a Twitter page. But this deep into the 21st century and the impact of a social media campaign is undeniable. Unless you’ve completely written off technology, it’s likely that you’re either already on the Twitter train or you keep thinking, “You know, I should really look into this Twitter thing. I’ll do it tomorrow.” The problem with tomorrow is that it isn’t today. In Twitter, as with most things, there’s no time like the present.

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Here are some quick and easy tips to get you started with running a Twitter page for your business.

Set up your Twitter profile.

A complete and consistent profile is essential to making an immediate impact on Twitter. The branding—profile picture, graphics, Twitter handle, bio—should be consistent with the rest of your branding, be it on your website, other social media accounts, or physical products. Choose a profile picture that is bold and easily identifiable. Your Twitter name should be your company’s name, ideally.

Build your Twitter community.

When you start out with Twitter, you start out at zero. It’s up to you to build your community of influencers and followers. Twitter will always suggest people to follow—who, in turn, may very well follow back. But take the initiative to identify who are the key influencers in your industry, follow them, and begin to interact with them. Also important is to spread the word among your customers that you are now on Twitter. Cross post to other social media accounts, include information in advertisements, and always include links to your social media accounts on your main website. Make it easy for people to find your page.

Establish your Twitter voice.

Now that you’ve set up your profile and begun to build your followers, it’s time to begin posting and making connections. Be consistent in your posting. Make it so that people can come to expect and look forward to seeing your Tweets. Post regularly and often, but not so much that you’re a pest. If you’re unsure of your posting technique, check other accounts that are in the same industry as you. What are they doing right? Levity and visuals are two major ways to catch people’s attention. Staying current and local can also quickly build a sense of community.

Though it may seem daunting at first, Twitter can be a gamechanger for your business. It’s free and—though this may be hard for some people to accept—easy to use. A complete and consistent profile, relevant community, and a strong voice are the building blocks of an effective Twitter account for business.

Three Actionable Insights from Google Analytics

Analytics are amazing tools that allow you to gather valuable insights about nearly every aspect of your business’s website. For example, you can look up the language, country, and city of every visitor to your homepage. This can be a very influential bit of data, one that may determine where you spend your advertising dollars.

What’s even more amazing is that Google offers web analytics for free. While there are other analytics services—some that even offer more data—there might not be a better bang for your buck than Google. Because, you know, it’s free. But also really useful. Here are three actionable insights found with Google Analytics.

Bounce rates: These are especially handy bits of data. Bounce rates allow you to observe how many visitors view your website without ever interacting with it. This may mean that the information they were looking for was found immediately on the homepage but it could also mean that there are design and usability issues with your site. Design and usability issues are fast ways to lose a customer. By analyzing what doesn’t work about your website, you can then take the steps necessary for fixing it, hopefully increasing visitor interaction—and, eventually, sales.

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Conversions by device: Another analytic that we like ’round these parts is the ability to see conversion rates by device, i.e., desktops and tablets. Curious how your website holds up on someone’s smart phone? In observing this data, you’ll be able to glean valuable insights from data points like number of visits and conversion rates made by people visiting your website through their mobile device. Is one device not making numbers like other devices are? Maybe you need to go and re-design that mobile site.

404 alerts: Of today’s three actionable insights, this is the easiest to fix. A 404 Not Found error is when a webpage cannot be found. Google Analytics allows users to set up a 404 alert, sending a message to you if your website crashes. It’s a proactive approach to your site, eliminating the need for you to rely on good samaritan visitors who email you when a page is down.

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Avoid Sites That Sell Followers

It’s a practice as old as business but when it comes to the social media game, paying to play just doesn’t cut it. Buying followers from “businesses” outside of Facebook, Twitter, et al. will not get you the results you desire. At best, you can hope for a superficial list of friends and followers, one that’s inflated like a balloon—big and hollow. It may seem like a quick, easy way to boost your follower count so let’s take a look at why paying for likes just doesn’t cut the mustard.

FallFest Crowd

So you’re new to a social media site and you see that low follower count. If only there was a way to quickly gain a bunch of followers so it doesn’t feel like you’re tossing pebbles in the ocean . . . Well if you give in to one of those users who promise 10,000 likes or followers you’ll be tossing your money down the drain. First, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be able to deliver so many followers. And even if they do? It’s nearly certain that these followers aren’t your target demographic. Heck, they might not even be real people at all.

Companies that promise new followers often deliver with people from different countries who have no realistic chance to ever visit your business. Another tactic is to deliver ‘bots’, fake accounts run by computer programs. What good is that? The whole point of running social media communities is to commune with your customers. All the work you put into delivering interesting and engaging content through your social media sites will go ignored if not delivered to the people its designed for.

Paying for followers is a cheap way to boost your audience and the results are just as cheap. It’s quality over quantity when it comes to running a healthy social media community. Want more followers? Targeted ads through the sites themselves help, allowing you to aim your site to the people you wish to reach. Be sure to include links to your social media accounts on your official website. Cross post between accounts by posting an Instagram photo to your Facebook page. Put up notices in your store. In the end, there are plenty of ways to increase your follower count without “paying to play.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Facebook for Business

The benefits of using Facebook for business are now well trod ground. But just signing up and posting a profile picture won’t get you the results you’re hoping for. There are a lot of ins and outs when it comes to running a Facebook page for business. Here are some critical DOs and DON’Ts that will provide a basic guideline for running a wicked good page.

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DO: Keep it light. Facebook is inherently fun and you don’t want to come across as stiff. If you’re looking to engage with your Facebook community and generate good will among potential customers, make them smile a bit. Have fun with it.

DON’T: Be unprofessional. There’s a line between having fun with your customers and coming across as unprofessional. You don’t want to cross it. Avoid sophomoric and crass humor.

DO: Provide customer service. Facebook is a great opportunity to answer any customer service queries that come up. By being prompt and personable, you can add a human touch that customers are so often looking for.

DON’T: Be formulaic in responses. If someone has a question or complaint, be sure to address it but don’t do so in “customer service speak.” People will be turned off by cookie cutter responses.

DO: Space out your posts. News feed burn out is a real thing on Facebook and you don’t want to be the page that is posting something every five minutes, bombarding your followers. It’s quality over quantity on Facebook, which is not necessarily the case on Twitter. Plan your post ahead of time and publish it when your followers are most likely to see it. This is much more effective than posting constantly.

DON’T: Leave your page unattended. Facebook is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of business and if you let your page go dormant for a couple of days, people are going to forget about you and move on. It’s about finding that balance between posting too much and not posting enough.

DO: Keep people informed. If you’re using Facebook for your business, you’re going to want to let people know about what’s going on. Do it in a way that’s Facebook-appropriate: Use photos, be friendly and warm, and keep it informal.

DON’T: Post like a commercial. Of course you’re going to want to let people know about your products or services but don’t do it in a way that comes across like an advertisement. People will tune out the businesses that they feel like is only on Facebook to sell them things. Facebook is a community, not a place for formal advertisements.

Leveraging LinkedIn for Business

Linkedin ChocolatesWith each social media site comes its own set of advantages, characteristics, and user base. While some sites, like Instagram and Vine, may share similar demographics and video sharing capabilities, other sites are more unique to themselves. This is certainly the case with LinkedIn, a social media site designed with business in mind.

At its core, LinkedIn was created as a place for business professionals to network. It’s a place where businesses can form new partnerships, where employers can look for new employees and vice versa. LinkedIn users are, on average, better educated with higher paying jobs. All of these factors make for an excellent marketing opportunity for a business.

Creating a LinkedIn page for your business allows you to tap into that population, allowing you to target engagement with people who may be better connected within your community and also may have a little more to spend on your service or product. There are the obvious businesses that stand to profit from networking with the professionals on LinkedIn—a suit tailor, office supply store, or anything in the technology industry, for example—but just about any business can take advantage of the free marketing opportunity LinkedIn presents.

Find ways to advertise your business to the LinkedIn crowd. If you own a bar and grill, maybe push your happy hour. You can even offer special LinkedIn-only deals to your followers. Boutiques can push business professional-friendly attire. Salons can show off styles that would stand out in the workplace. The point is that though you may not view yourself or your business as something that would fit on the professional networking site, the people already using LinkedIn make for excellent potential customers.

Doing Business on Pinterest

Pretty PinterestAs anyone who has invested in Myspace knows, the social media game has no safe bets. A site you thought would’ve been around forever is already a ghost town while another you thought was doomed from the start slowly builds into a zeitgeist-grabbing juggernaut. When it comes to matters of social media, it’s best to not count anyone out too quickly. Except maybe Myspace. You can probably count them out. But, then again . . .

Pinterest, who has had its fair share of naysayers, detractors, and otherwise, has established itself as one of the main players of the social media game. If your business isn’t on Pinterest, it’s high time you set up an account. It’s an image-based site, one that allows a user to create a sort of online cork board where they pin their favorite pictures, easily accessed by their own personal network of friends and family. It’s built for sharing.

Being that Pinterest is an image-based site, so much of what you choose to share will have to be agreeable to the eyes—to put it lightly. You want the photos you share to look good. You want them to look so good that your followers will be inspired to repin (like retweet) your image for their followers to see. And then maybe one of their followers repins it, too. And so on and so forth: Your image just went viral.

Using photos to showcase your products is great, of course, but you’re going to want to keep your posts varied and diverse. For every photo you pin, you’re going to want to repin someone else’s photo. Not only does this engage other Pinterest users, it demonstrates that your business isn’t only on Pinterest to advertise. Users aren’t going to follow an account that is only bombarding them with advertisements. To be a part of someone’s community, you must commune.

Of course, posting photos of your products and services is an excellent way to drum up business. But don’t stop there. Post coupons available only to your Pinterest community. Post photos of your employees to show that you’re a team. Make things that are visually stimulating and inspiring. Follow influential accounts in your own industry to watch for product trends. Use Pinterest to learn more about your customers and what they’re interested in. Pinterest is excellent for engaging and interacting that community which you rely on. Also, it’s popular and, we think, here to stay.