By adaptive - February 29th, 2012

[U]sing social media as promotional collateral is of course an excellent idea, but the sheer amount of blatant sales messages is starting to put a lot of people off. Nobody believes in free iPads a...

Using social media as promotional collateral is of course an excellent idea, but the sheer amount of blatant sales messages is starting to put a lot of people off. Nobody believes in free iPads anymore (from the amount of promotional Tweets offering them you might wonder whether anyone actually pays for the things) so corporates that want to use this type of promotional message have to be a bit more methodical.

The trick is to incorporate social media into the sales process whilst not sounding salesy – which is going to mean getting it into the customer service function as well, as people expect to be spoken to individually.

[caption id="attachment_1904" align="alignleft" width="142" caption="Jonny Rosemont, Head of Social Media, DBD Media"]Jonny Rosemont, Head of Social Media, DBD Media[/caption]

Jonny Rosemont has extensive experience of this. Now head of social media at consultancy D B D Media, he previously worked at John Lewis where he devised launched and implemented the social media strategy. The important thing, he suggests, is establishing where your customers are talking about you – this is likely to be Facebook and Twitter if you are consumer facing – and by talking to them individually it should be possible to work out what sort of interaction is going to work en masse.

Resourcing is then something to consider. “Behind the scenes you need to establish the workflows and processes to be able to respond and resolve any issue,” he says. “Make sure you invest in a technology solution that a) alerts you to the conversations around your company and b) enables you to assign, respond and engage with the individual customer circumstance. Clearly define who’s role and responsibility it is to engage in any given circumstance and develop a tone of language, response SLAs (service level agreements e.g. how quickly you are going to respond) and approach to resolving the issue – e.g. most customer service issues are better taken offline so provide an email and contact name who the email would be addressed to.

“If it is not about issues and is about general customer interaction this should reflect how you interact with your customers in your wider business i.e. be helpful, provide expertise, don’t be too pushy. Written words are often misunderstood so don’t over complicate your language. Link to content (e.g. product pages) to help paint a picture or direct people to product.”

The company also offers loyalty programmes, and here Rosemont is adamant you need to go beyond loyalty vouchers, particularly in the online world. “At John Lewis we understood that the relationship a customer has with the brand is significantly based on their experience with their chosen shop and its Partners (staff),” he says.

“As a result a lot of the communication that’s pushed out through the social media channels is about promoting in-store activity – what is happening at individual shops, what the shop Partners are recommending in terms of product etc. The Facebook page includes an application that highlights the key activities and events happening at the individual John Lewis stores, and the highlights are also communicated through the Facebook wall and tweets. The hosting of special Q&As with key members of staff has also been popular. Loyalty goes beyond offering simple vouchers and offering a wider service that’s of value to your customers.” Creativity, then, is a vital element.

Making connections

Generally staying in touch is another area in which businesses can do well, he says, as long as they appreciate this is more than just another email. “If you are hosting an event for example you don’t just provide details of the event, where it is etc., you also provide post event analysis, photos from it etc,” he comments.

“With social media it is a much more rounded experience.  Staying in touch via social media also benefits from the additional social layer. By you “liking” a brand you choose to receive information, by engaging your friends and contacts might be encouraged to do the same or engage around your activities. The brand needs to communicate what it is people will be getting when liking the brand – will they be getting news, enter unique competitions etc.? It’s important to manage people’s expectations.”

Vince Tseng, MD of Squaretrade UK, cites an example of his company engaging extremely well through social media. “If your customers are fans, social media can be a great way to expand your brand to other customers as well,” he says. “SquareTrade ran a very successful campaign which led to 10,000 sign-ups, using a combination of Facebook and direct mail to encourage our customers to take part in our referral programme, which offers incentives to recommend SquareTrade products. We firstly used a direct-mail to target previous customers who weren’t members of our referral programme.”

It’s at this stage of the campaign that an old friend made an appearance. “SquareTrade then added a Facebook sweepstake that gave away 50 Apple iPad 2 tablets over the course of five weeks,” he explains. “Consumers who entered the sweepstakes were automatically enrolled in SquareTrade's referral programme and asked to refer friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger or posting an embedded code to their personal websites. If a winning consumer had entered the giveaway via a referral, the referring friend also received an iPad 2.”

It’s important to match the giveaway to the target audience of course. And in this instance in spite of the cynicism many of us feel when we see the “win a free iPad” signs coming up, it clearly worked spectacularly. For corporates that understand how direct marketing campaigns work, applying a social media component is the logical next step. Clearly if handled correctly linking a campaign’s collateral with customer service messages can deliver a holistic approach to marketing activity that can be highly effective.


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