Social media is an enigma to many executives. Its prevalence can't be denied and all companies should use it as a critical interaction channel. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursqure, Pinterest and others take away the barriers to direct interaction with customers and prospects. The challenge comes from using social media in a strategic way that has a financial impact, not just as a "nice to have" initiative. Many companies are looking for best practices in how to best use social media to drive engagement and relationship strength.It's a big challenge because every company is different, and every customer is different. Yes, there are 500+ million people on Facebook, but everyone uses it in a different way. What might work for one company when it comes to marketing, sales, or customer service will not automatically work for others. Also, as Don Peppers & Martha Rogers write in their upcoming book Extreme Trust, social interactions need to be genuine and have real people behind them. In short, they need a conscience. Efforts with a predominant sales or spin to them will result in backlash in the social world. Another challenge is that many companies feel that their brands won't gain traction in social media because they're B2B, low-tech, or skew toward an older demographic.
In today's issue of 1to1 Magazine, Mila D'Antonio highlights three companies that have overcome each of these challenges and use social media to drive real customer loyalty. TurboTax, RecycleBank, and Hallelujah Acres are not your stereotypical social brands. None of them are high-tech, flashy, or focus exclusively on hip, young consumers. But they all use social media in unique ways that have real business impact:
- TurboTax created an online community that uses crowdsourcing to connect product teams with customers to gather information in real time. The company has made more than 100 improvements directly as a result of community activity, and customers' likelihood to buy jumps 26 percent when they participate in the community.
- RecycleBank combines social gaming mechanics and reward incentives with interactive and online tools to engage, educate, and motivate its more than 3 million members to recycle and take other green actions. The leader boards and competition led to a 70 percent increase in member engagement.
- Healthy Acres acts as a trusted advisor to consumers, using sites like Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook to share knowledge about healthy eating habits. Sales have gone up as a result and the company is close to correlating social engagement with sales.
These best practices show that social media can be rewarding for both consumers and companies. But doing it right requires a deep understanding of what your customers need and expect from your business. Every company must create its own unique social media strategy, then be flexible enough to adapt and change along with the market and with customers.