Can we really establish meaningful relationships via social media? Does social media really connect people and help them build long-term, genuine relationships?
I would say yes, without a doubt.
Recently, I visited the Netherlands to collaborate on my book “Is your marketing in sync or sinking?” with a friend that I met on social media, who actually ended up hosting me at his house for 10 days.
I met Christian Fictoor, the Chief Innovation Officer of L’Amp via Twitter, made mutual friends with him via Facebook, and spoke with him using Google Hangouts before we actually met in person 10 months down the line.
I was no more an Indian, he was no more Dutch – we were just two friends that shared a common vision and ended up establishing the brand “marketingsync” despite 7700 kms between us.
We need to really acknowledge the fact that we have left the world of B2B or B2C. We are in the age of H2H, i.e. Human to Human.
This age is all about enjoying similarities and respecting differences.
The connection happened because we didn’t impose ourselves, our thoughts, or our views on each other; instead, we shared and we listened to each other with an open mind.
We understood that synchronicity wasn’t a destination but a journey.
Now, think about what we do on social media.
We try to establish our brand by sharing content or thoughts based on how we want people to perceive us.
But have you wondered what how many users actually see your Tweets or Facebook posts?
The data from an Ogilvy report shows it can be as low as 2 percent.
This small number means you need to make sure you have connected with the right people—people who can relate to what you are saying.
In other words, social media isn’t just a broadcasting platform.
To make sense to the people in your social connection, you need to sharpen your social listening abilities and attain precision in your communication.
We all live in a world of social media, where we cannot watch a movie or board a plane without checking in on Facebook and adding a few hashtags on twitter.
As hashtags have gained momentum in the social arena, it is all the more important to be able to decipher meaningful information by tracking them.
One must consciously realize that social listening is way beyond tracking @mentions and comments that come in to our social profiles, mobile apps, or blogs.
By watching only those notifications, you might miss out on a huge group of people that are talking about experiences with you, your brand, or your product or service.
Social listening is the process of tracking every conversation around specific keywords, brand names, and phrases that are associated with your interest/product or service, as well as engaging with the audience that discusses those topics in order to discover opportunities or create relevant content for them.
To describe this further, listening is not just monitoring social mentions; it is about keeping an eye for patterns, tracking sentiments, and then analyzing and reflecting upon this information.
Understanding social sentiments is an important part of social listening, and it includes looking at:
Listening to the market in this way will help you understand whether people are satisfied or not, and it provides an opportunity to get involved with the conversation.
“It is extremely important to know when to get into a conversation”
Most of our social efforts revolve around content and its SEO effects, but what’s more important is trying to get your message heard.
To get into social sync, here are the top three points that we discussed recently at our marketingsync workshop in Enschede, Netherlands.
Vinod Muthukrishnan, the CEO of revolutionary software company CloudCherry, which provides B2C businesses with insights on customer experience in real time, told me that “This is a phase that every organization goes through until they get a good grasp of who their customer is.
We started off as a solution provider for small medium businesses (SMBs) and went on to realize that measuring customer delight or customer experience was not a strategic need at the SMB level, it was rather a tactical need.
Then we realized that our solutions were more meaningful to the enterprise customers.
The contracts were long-term since customer experience was a strategic factor at the enterprise level.
So, the first step, when you set up an organizational goal is to understand why you are in business and have a clear answer as to whom the product or service is for.
Clarity helps you stay focused on your goals. It gives you a purpose for all your marketing operations.
You will know the mission that you are on.”
He further shared, “Once we understood that we had to take the enterprise route, our marketing and sales efforts became more channelized.
Setting up marketing and sales goals became much easier as we knew where the organization wanted to be and the goals set at the organization level.”
Similarly, here’s an interesting story from Hubspot explaining the need to re-check whether your buyer personas are working for you or not.
Beyond Vinod’s experience, it is also important to understand that social media marketing is not a quick way to build profitable business.
That said, you can definitely influence a buyer’s decision if there is trust developed over a period of time.
Never get social just because your competitors do or to make transactions – be social to build relationships.
Relationships are everything.
It so happened that Christian Fictoor and I were walking across the streets of Amsterdam and I said “Chris, let’s have some coffee,” pointing at a coffee shop.
He replied “You don’t go there for coffee, it’s mainly weed” and started laughing.
It was a funny moment, but that made me realize that words can mean or imply different things in different cultures.
Similarly, with social media, every channel has its own culture. Users and marketers have to approach these channels accordingly.
There is no one universal social media channel that works for all.
It would be wise not to put all eggs in one basket and just try and understand how each one works for you; then, you’ll be able to maximize your investment.
There are several tools available today to help you understand the interests of your followers on a typical social media channel.
For example, your target users on Facebook may prefer watching videos over reading text.
If you ignore that and stick to posting more text content, it might not help.
Here are some tools you can use to listen to your customers and prospects across channels:
Sparkcentral is a channel agnostic engagement platform customer service tool that allows you to communicate with your customers across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram in real time, while also offering support through in-app messaging for team members.
Social Mention collects aggregate data across social platforms. You’ll see results from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube with information on the sentiment of the engagement across these sources. It’s free and needs no registration.
Sprout Social can really help in social customer service, as it gives you an aggregation of tweets and Facebook posts on a dashboard, where your team can respond to them from a single page.
Hootsuite gives you a complete overview across your social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Foursquare, and Google+ with weekly analytical reports.
If you are operating on a larger scale and are looking for a social listening tool for managing customer service, then Lithium is a definite option as it allows you to respond directly to customers, engage your audience, and route issues to the appropriate team.
A value proposition is a promise, and it is important to be clear and consistent about that promise across platforms.
One of the most basic customer demands is that the experience is as consistent and personal as possible, as we are on an omnichannel journey today.
The first thing one must do is understand and define the brand identity clearly on social media as well as within the organization.
Who are you? The answer to this question gives a unique identity to the brand, creating awareness and shaping the way you respond or share information.
Identify how customers will make their choice between you and your competition. Determine their decision-making process.
Review all of the things they may consider. Think about how you are ranked as they progress through that process.
Determine how to communicate value as they are deliberating. You will either adjust your product or adjust the way you communicate with customers.
Think carefully about the experience you want customers to have and examine any gaps between that and where the product is now; then, examine how to fix that.
Though it has been discussed several times, this question continues to exist.
Listening isn’t just about watching what people are talking about; it is the point of origin of every social campaign.
If you are just pushing messages across without trying to converse or without understanding your audience and their preferences, then you are heading for a nose dive.
Social listening spans across:
So it is time to get back to your steering hut. Plot your course, then inform and inspire your crew with your vision and destination.
Your ship is about to sail a lot faster and become more agile. Never, never sit back and relax.
You are never done—there might be an iceberg popping up in the least expected places and the least expected moments.
Stay focused, keep innovating, and keep your team “on board.” Safe journey!
Yaagneshwaran Ganesh is a marketing enthusiast, speaker and the author of "Is your marketing in sync or sinking?". His mission "One globe, one experience" is to explore marketing practices at organizations of different sizes, industry and cultures across the globe and help align marketing operations to organizational strategy. He has an MBA from Jansons School of Business and a certificate in strategy management from Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode.