One of the attractions of social media is that it gives customers a way to get more personal with your company. It allows them to feel that they are special because you are making yourself accessible to them. Even if you aren’t sharing your company’s most closely guarded secrets with your customers, merely reaching out to them through social media goes a long way toward building better client relations. When customers see that business with you means a two-way relationship, they are more inclined to continue with that relationship.
Building the bond
Blogs and social media profiles are wonderful ways to build this bond with your customers. Through your web presence, you can spread your message to customers, build trust, and win their loyalty. It is an excellent platform to control your public image by providing customers with insight into your company that they can’t get anywhere else. Let them in on the inner workings of your business. Share with them your business goals for the year. Give them a peek into what they can expect in the coming year. These social media marketing methods may seem unorthodox to traditional business practices but they are a new approach to doing business online.
Online, it is all about sharing. Still, most of these methods are one sided. To really be social, the discussion needs to be a two-way street. Of course, you allow (and even encourage) comments on your blog and yes, customers can also post to your Facebook page. If you take it one step further and add a forum to the site, suddenly you not only have customers and potential customers talking about your brand, they are talking and sharing within your brand. And within your web presence. With a forum or message board, you’ve instantly brought them into your world and given them the tools and encouragement to start their own discussion about your business.
A forum or message board is primarily a tool for use by your customer base. Unlike your blog or other social media channel, a forum isn’t the place you want to push your agenda. Think of it as a sign of goodwill toward your customers. It becomes another sign of trust. Opening up that forum on your site is the ultimate demonstration of transparency. For relationship building, transparency is critical and encourages trust because it shows that you have nothing to hide. And yes, it does take some resolve on your part. Anyone can say anything within that forum. However, just as easily as customers can share positive experiences, a disgruntled customer can join the forum and share negative comments with others from the inside. Of course that’s a worst-case scenario.
Although the idea of a forum is that it is primarily run by the users, the beauty of it is, however, that you still have some control. You have the ability to engage with customers and encourage positive talk. You also have the ability to engage with someone who may have had a negative experience. Engaging that customer gives you the power to possibly win them back and leave a lasting, positive impression.
So what kinds of topics can you cover with a forum or message board? You definitely want to give visitors to your forum the freedom to come up with their own topics but there is some room for you to steer the conversation. Your customers will naturally want to exchange ideas with other customers and share experiences. While it’s great for your customers to build a relationship with you and your company, it is also beneficial for them to build relationships with other customers. It helps to create a sense of community and that breeds brand loyalty. If you have a product that you sell, customers may want to see how others use the product. Ask customers to post their positive experiences with your brand. Just to show that you strive to make your company the best it can be, also ask them how your company can better meet their needs.
You can help the discussion along by suggesting other topics as well. Invite customers to post how they’ve used your products or how your services have helped them. Pose questions and ask customers to answer them or share their experiences on the topic.
When it comes to your business and social media, continuing discussions and interactions are both critical to your success. It is also essential that your online connections have a comfortable and safe place to discuss and interact. The easier you make it, the more people will want to be a part of your business experience.
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Marco Giunta is a Senior Business Development Executive and the author of the book: Rethinking Sales.
He is a leading expert in Global Outsourcing with a focus on banking, financial services and other Industry sectors and has a long list of clients. Mr. Giunta is a speaker and presenter. He has led start-ups, business strategy groups, technology think tanks and has experience as a career coach. Visit Marco’s website at marcogiunta.com.