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Using Social Media to communicate with customers

For those of you who are fans of The Apprentice, you may remember Richard Wood who was one of the runners-up a couple of years ago. Richard was in the winning team for eight of the nine selling tasks, making him one of the most successful participants in the show’s history. He famously claimed that he was a “Swiss Army Knife of business tools”.

Richard now runs a digital marketing business called ‘Yomp’ and is an expert on how to best use social media to communicate with customers. I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago and a copy of the video is linked below.

Within my Blog this week I have summarised some of his advice. The use of social media and online communication continues to increase with Google recently claiming to have had a billion users in one day. On Facebook, the over 45 audience is the fasting growing, so increasingly it’s not just for the young.

The rise in the popularity of smartphones has been key to this. People are finding it a lot easier to access social media and it then often becomes addictive. If you're bored or waiting for a bus or train it provides a compelling distraction. In fact, there are more searches on social media than there is on Google each day.

There has been a particularly big shift in the last year. On the basis that businesses want to be where their customers are - if your customer’s eyeballs are on social media this provides a great opportunity. You can use social media as a platform to push your message out and there are lots of ways to do this. One method that is really clever is utilising Facebook for targeting. You can for example use ‘geotargeting’, dropping a pin in a location that just targets the community around it. For example, if you are going to do an event within a community but you don’t know everyone that lives within your properties, if you drop a pin in that area, anyone that is within that area geographically, even if they are just visiting, would be served an advert with details of the event.

You can also create Facebook groups, inviting people to join a group, perhaps because they have a particular type of interest or demographic. You can then use this to publish relevant content to them to serve their, and often your, needs. People can ask to join a group, but you can have the opportunity to verify them to make sure that you are happy for them to join. Another way of targeting is to upload a database to Facebook. Where this can work really well is if you are trying to sell additional services into an audience. It's a great way of circulating ‘explainer’ videos too, for example how to pay your rent online, demonstrating perhaps that it is as easy as buying on Amazon.

Social media does have its challenges. You must remember that people do foresee this as being a social network and you have to be sympathetic to that. It is better not to use it for bold advertising, but more to position yourself as a thought leader.

People love video on social media; people like pictures on social media and people like people on social media, so don’t be a faceless organisation, or just a logo, you need to become an entity with personality. Use people working in your organisation to champion your brand and your objectives. Use those in your communities to promote what you are doing or what you would like other customers to do, such as making online payments or attending the latest community event. People like to get messages from people within their own social circles. This provides what is called "Social Proof" and it can be very powerful. For example, we are all reassured when we hear real customers testify to the quality of a service. Try and create customer interaction where you can. Consider including 'like' buttons or request scores for particular web pages. This will help provide feedback as to what is popular.

An advantage of using social media to put out your messages is the wealth of analytics to provide management information and analyse how successful your message is. Using like and feedback buttons can also assist you to make a decision about future content.

Many have struggled with social media from a business prospective, abandoning initiatives due to them not delivering the results hoped for. Get it right and you have a powerful tool, but like so many things, there is an art to it and you should seek some early expert help.