This post is Part 1 in a series on using social media to build strong customer relationships. Parts 1 and 2 discuss some of the top reasons to use social media for customer retention. Part 3 discusses how to get started.
If you have customers that are actively using social media, there is a potential to use that communication channel to deepen customer relationships. Social media tools are especially effective at building two-way conversations with customers, either consumers or businesses. There is certainly a lot of talk about marketing with social media!
I teach a class at UC San Diego called Marketing via New Media, and we just kicked off a new quarter this week. We discussed the top reasons that businesses should consider using social media; I have summarized two of them for you here.
- Social media marketing strengthens customer relationships. Customers don’t want a relationship with a company or organization. They have relationships with the people that work for that company or organization. Social media tools such as blogs and Twitterallow customers to get to know the people inside the company. They get to see real people with real personalities. Tara de Nicolas from the Washington Humane Society shared with me that the most popular part of their website is the link to their Flickr photo stream! Their clients and donors love to see the faces behind the operations, and they seek them out when given a chance to attend a face-to-face event with them (such as a fundraising dinner). Friendships are formed online and brought into the offline arena! Customers that have positive interactions with the people in the company feel a stronger sense of trust with that organization, a key factor in building customer loyalty.
- Social media marketing is great at keeping customers informed and involved. While traditional media is also good at keeping customers informed, social media excels at getting customers involved. Nearly one year ago, we had devastating wildfires here in San Diego. One of my students this quarter works for the San Diego Zoo, and she shared that zoo members and other San Diegans greatly appreciated the zoo blog updates on how the fire had impacted the park. It allowed them a “look inside” to see how animals had been affected, and people’s passion for the animals drove additional public involvement to support the zoo’s efforts in caring for the wildlife. Customers that are more involved and engaged tend to have longer and stronger relationships with organizations.
There are many other reasons as well, which will be covered in this series. My panel this weekend at BlogWorld Expo addressed the above reasons and some issues, including customer retention programs, customer service, and changes in customer expectations. There was great information on how to do it, as well as some areas to consider, from my expert panelists Tony Hsieh from Zappos.com, Frank Eliason from Comcast, Brian Solisfrom FutureWorks, and Toby Bloomberg from Diva Marketing. Part 2 of this series (to be posted later this week) will review the implications we discussed with respect to customer service expectations resulting from tools such as Twitter. Be sure to come back to hear their answers, as well as answers to the questions you, my readers, asked before the conference!