It is no more news that customers are evolving. The individual habits and expectations of modern consumers have changed the landscape into which marketing and advertising campaigns are launched. Simple ad campaigns and increase in bottomline are no longer simple equations – advertising agencies are working overtime and business owners are getting worried. This is because individuals now prefer to do their own research rather than just believe advertisers’ word for it. They are increasingly forming communities online and people have been discussing – including brands. Dissatisfied customers no longer waste time calling auto-responders for complaints – they simply turn to their peers online and are empowering others with information that is likely to have an impact on the reputation of your brand.
Businesses now need to get out of their comfort zone and begin to engage their customers through a comprehensive social media strategy. Starbucks coffee, an international brand is leading the way in engaging its customers on social media platforms. On the Nigerian scene, KPMG conducted a banking industry customer satisfaction survey and rated GTBank as the most customer focused bank (retail and corporate). It can safely be deduced that GTBank is certainly doing something right on the web. Beyond just opening media channels, what is it about GTBank’s social media strategy has made it so successful? Let’s analyze GTBank social behavior across the web:
Beyond having a beautifully designed website, Facebook or twitter pages, GTBank has been able to harness the power of online communities in delivering value to customers and potential customers. Here are some lessons for employing social media strategy for yours.
Don’t shout, Listen
The first way to begin to engage customers is to listen first. What are your customers saying and where are they? Whether your organization believes it or not, conversations are going on online about your brand, customers are sharing their experience and they are mentioning things you won’t ever find out even if you search your beautifully designed suggestion box.
Instead of leaving customers to complain about long queues, GTBank brought banking to their customers on the web. Listening before engaging your target audience ensures you don’t throw money at your business challenges. Innovative Public Relation tools are now available that enable PR professionals track conversations going on about people and brands on blogs, forums, social media websites and to be able to analyze and counsel organizations for online consumer engagement.
Go, join the conversation
While some organizations find it is easy to worry less about social media reports and to wish them away, lots of brands including GTBank, Honda, Mercedes Benz and Starbucks have gone to join the conversation on social media. Creating your own community on social media platforms online ensures that you have a platform where potential consumers come to complain, make enquiries, ask questions and you ultimately have your own online customer service forum where open communication and feedbacks are available for customers to interact with one another and with the brand.
GTBank is no longer busy shouting for attention and interrupting people with adverts; they are busy chatting with about 112,268 fans on Facebook, and over 1,259 followers on Twitter. Don’t just hurry to join the people community to control the conversation and restrict negative comments – you better not be found out. The goal is to help customers find solutions to their challenges, inspire consumer loyalty and to influence buying choices.
Content – push your stuff out!
Traditional campaign materials can be turned into online friendly versions and can be distributed freely. In two months of GTBank opening a YouTube Channel, 2,042 people have viewed its uploads. GTBank uploads videos, product launches, adverts on Facebook. The bank also has an interactive multimedia e-zine called Ndani which it distributes periodically. This is fully readable with flip pages, links and videos – all easily transferable among customers. What makes social media attractive is not only fruitful discussion, content is key. Why would someone visit your brand website if it doesn’t deliver value? GTBank’s website has a fully integrated internet banking service. Print adverts, videos and other freebies make it easy to get others do the advertising for the organization. One of the most successful viral marketing strategies is to get easily distributable materials out into the open.
Blendtec, a company which manufactures professional home blenders, produced an in-house video, which gained maximum exposure with 134.2million views on YouTube and a fivefold increase in sales.
Engage your customers
Having an online platform is not enough. Websites like Facebook is now awash with inactive fan pages without meaningful activity going on. The goal of social media engagement is not to have a page or website; it is to give customers the opportunity to gain ownership of the brand. Don’t forget, your goal is not to control, just discuss. Even with Starbuck’s 705,000 followers on twitter and over 5,428,000 fans on Facebook, it has gone ahead to open a website where consumers share their ideas on Starbucks (www.mystarbucksidea.com). GTBank uses it platforms to invite people to events and engages them by also moderating competition for fans – people love free stuff, ask GTBank. Fans have a place to open discussions and comment as many of them do. Go on ahead and participate, engage them and deliver value, and the customers will relate with your brand in a personal way.
It is becoming imperative that even customer service is no longer about sipping coffee while expecting customers to call your automated answering machine. Most of them never do anyway. However, many brands can learn a great deal from the way that GTBank is winning the heart of customers through the social web. The GTBank brand has created a digital dialogue with its customers, enabling online enthusiasts a platform to experience the brand and to give feedback on their services. GTBank is again showing its customers and potential customers that customer service remains their key selling proposition by putting communicating with their customers and prospective customers a top priority. Do you?