Does social media increase customer engagement, or are engaged customers more likely to use social?
Businesses that aren’t already using social media are under increasing pressure to catch the wave or be left stranded. With all the talk about how social media can enhance customer relationships and provide opportunities for proactive customer support, I can’t help but wonder: does social actually engage customers, or are engaged customers more social by nature?
Think about why people “Like” a brand on Facebook. Are they drawn to Facebook by the Like button on another site? Are they driven to share their preferences with their friends, just because they’ve had a good brand experience? Or is the “Like” really just a way to find new deals and discounts? If a customer comes to Facebook for a special discount, does that turn into future loyalty?
What about customers using Twitter? If you’ve tweeted about a company, was it just to share an experience? Why do people follow brands on Twitter, especially when those brands don’t generally follow-back? Are these people also looking for deals? Or does the relationship go deeper than that?
Brands with high social engagement are likely to find that:
- Most of their fans and followers were already engaged in social media before connecting with the company.
- Courting customers through social channels is hard work, and requires rewarding them with special sales or exclusive updates to keep them connected.
- Enticing customers who are not engaged in social media to connect online can be difficult, no matter how much they like the brand.
It is possible to increase engagement among socially active customers, building a larger audience though word of mouth and referrals (think “retweet” and “share”). Connecting with loyal customers and getting them to spread the word with incentives, contests, discounts and give-aways can be a good way to spark trials and repeat business.
However, if your target market is less web-savvy, it will be harder to get prospect to engage with you on social media sites. Promoting the fact that customers who are also social media connections have access to special sales, discounts and information may encourage some of these customers to start using social media.
In marketing your business, think about whether your customers are typically social media users or not. Use this information to guide your decisions about how to incorporate social media into your marketing mix. If your customers are engaged, online and offline, they are more likely to be active brand advocates. Take advantage of this passion about your brand by sharing stories and promoting community among your customers.
On the other hand, if your business is highly transactional, and you don’t get a lot of repeat business, you will want a different approach. These customers are only engaged during while thinking about making a purchase, and possibly for a short time after the sale. Use positive experiences to get referrals and develop success stories that you can in turn share with new prospects.
Understanding your unique market, as well as the relationship between social media and online engagement, will help you be more effective in your online marketing efforts.