As ever increasing numbers of web users utilize social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and forums etc.), to engage and interact with others, so it figures that businesses of all sizes are wanting to get a piece of the action.
With most countries only now dragging themselves out of recession, budgets are far smaller than they have been in the past, increasing the incentive to look for far smarter ways of getting a brand known and generating a buzz. Obviously, social media fits the bill nicely.
At the same time, brands are also ever increasingly turning to their audience to act as first line support, utilizing their followers and/or clients to help and educate each other, circumnavigating the need to make contact directly, unless absolutely necessary.
In this article i’ll outline some tips for how companies can make best use of their audience to market their offering and keep support costs low.
By marketing themselves through the likes of YouTube videos, Facebook groups and fan pages, Twitter profiles and other social sites, companies can essentially start breaking down the walls that traditionally exist between themselves and their audience. Now they can interact directly, be more responsive and build trust more easily, with the only cost being time and effort.
Take a look at the Skittles website for an example of how a brand has exclusively used different social media channels to interact with its audience and virally spread its message. It’s a radical strategy but has worked extremely well, with 3.5m fans on Facebook alone.
On their own websites, companies are now using twitter and facebook buttons alongside integrated services such as AddThis to spread their message. As people trust the opinions and recommendations of their friends, family, collegues and peers more than they would an ad, these social share services are invaluable.
Think of every way that you can output your blog or website output to multiple channels and sign up to the services that can help you realize this. Most are free and easy to use.
Many companies view the idea of bringing their support out into the open as a recipe for disaster. BUT if you have a strong offering or at least the will to improve and be transparent, this strategy can pay dividends.
There are a number of ways to make your support more community driven. You can either launch a forum and integrate it into your website or blog, or use a support platform such as Get Satisfaction or UserVoice. To give you an example of the popularity of community support platforms, Get Satisfaction has 25,000 support communities currently up and running!
So, how do the likes of Get Satisfaction or UserVoice work?
Simply put, users submit a support request, a bug or a feature recommendation and these are either dealt with publically by a representative of the company or by another user. This has the triple benefit of showing that the company is responsive, transparent and genuine and that it’s users are helpful and generally ‘cool’ (a brand plus). At the same time it’s also lowering overheads for the company by taking some of the weight off the shoulders of its support staff.
An even simpler support mechanism now being adopted by many companies is Twitter. Zappos and Dell have been extremely successful at this, mixing support with exclusive promotions. In the case of Dell, they made $6.5m from exclusive Twitter promotions in 2009.
All of us know brands that have used the Internet extremely well. Take a moment to revisit what they are doing, read the tips i’ve outlined above and see how you can apply these learnings to your own brand, blog or website.
If social media is already working out well for you, feel free to tell us and our readers in the comments area below.