7 ways brands can improve marketing strategies with social media

Social media has been both a gift and a curse for many
marketers trying to incorporate and justify it in their already over-stretched
budgets. Social can be utilised as a cost effective way of communicating with
your consumers.
Conversations on social sites affect the way a brand is
perceived, with 92% of customers around the world trusting earned media more than
advertising. Here are seven ways that brands can take advantage of this
user-generated content and the conversations taking place:

Step 1 – Use social media to obtain user generated content

User generated content is a great way to raise brand
awareness amongst a wider audience. Through the use of a well-managed presence
on social sites, a brand can ensure that users are advocating its products. Post
interaction emails, calls to action and contests are a great way of attracting
authentic customer reviews, opinions and product ratings. These can be shared
across multiple channels to ensure they are seen by shoppers throughout the
buying cycle. 

Step 2 – Use social media to listen to your customers

Through analysing and listening to the conversations of your
customers, you can create a targeted approach to your marketing activities.
Listen to the opinions and buying motivation of each segment of your customer
base and use this information to create campaigns with messages that will
resonate with them. This may require separating the customer groups into
segments via the retail outlets they shop at, as different stores will attract
shoppers with different motivations. As a result of analysing conversations,
brands are also able to improve their optimised search results. Take the
opportunity to learn the type of language used when discussing your products
and apply this to the search terms you target to direct traffic to your website.

Step 3 – Use social media to improve customer engagement

Increased customer engagement is another benefit of using
social as part of your marketing approach. Improving engagement with customers
means brands can direct the conversation and guide user-generated content. It
is important to create a space where consumers can discuss your brand and share
their opinions. This can be achieved by inviting people to provide consumer
ratings and reviews, sharing question and answer content and using story
campaigns for consumers to relate to. Once you have achieved a good level of
engagement and feedback from your customers it is important to show them their
contribution to your brand. Share comments and reviews, answer questions and
let people know their input is valued. Over 70% of shoppers research online
before making a purchase, so these forms of earned media are vital to your
marketing strategy.

Step 4 – Use social media to identify new product development

New product development and promotion is a key feature for
many brands and who better to design and promote the product than the end
consumer. Social outlets give brands the opportunity to co-create with
shoppers. By inviting customers to share their ideas and feedback on products
they feel like a partner of the company, giving them an interest in the brand.
In this way they are more likely to become advocates of the brand and will
create a buzz around new products and their launches. Encouraging customers to
promote new products can really aid a brand’s product launch. If the right
advocates are found to trial new products in return for feedback, the brand can
use this earned media in their adverts and disseminate it through their social
channels before the launch, sparking an interest from other shoppers. 

Step 5 – Use social media to boost your campaign conversion

One of the most important reasons for using social media is
to boost your campaign conversion rates. Studies have shown that increasing the
visibility of word of mouth recommendations on brand websites can increase ‘buy
now’ action by up to 76% and the time spent on the site can increase by up to
79%. Exposing shoppers to their peers’ opinions and recommendations throughout
the buying cycle can transform browsers into buyers. 

Step 6 – Use social media to recognise customer

Recognising customer contributions to your site can help
cultivate consumer relationships by showing that you value their opinion. A
good way to do this is through campaigns encouraging user generated content.
For example, email campaigns and other outbound media inviting consumers to
share their opinions and reviews works well. Also, by displaying customer
ratings on products and in store, consumers can see that their views are taken
into account whilst helping others to make informed buying decisions. 

Step 7 – Use social media to be part of the conversation

Conversations regarding your brand and products will take
place on social media, the key is to make sure that you are a part of them! Use
social channels as a forum to communicate with your customers to gain their
trust, loyalty and feedback. Encourage brand advocates and use the
opportunities that social provides to gain a valuable insight into what your
consumers really want. Including your customers into your marketing strategy by
way of social media channels and showing that you value their input will
encourage them to contribute user-generated content. 
How else do you use  social media? Do share via @annmariehanlon