Consumers use social media to tell brands: “We want to help” (Part 2)

Part 2 of a guest post by Steven Van Belleghem, author of The Conversation Company & The Conversation Manager. Part 1 is here.

How to exploit all the possibilities of social media

Here are the conclusions of our study of social media around the world. Our first conclusion is that consumers have integrated social media in their everyday routine. Because of this, the social media landscape looks stable and there’s only room for newcomers with a unique angle such as Instagram and Pinterest. Consumers still like to connect with brands but just a few brands are actively monitored. Apart from receiving content, consumers also want to be involved in the management of these companies.

This means that marketers and social media managers should plot their strategy along two axes:

  • Reach: in social media, both a broad and a limited reach can be useful. It is possible to create value for your customers and the company simply by helping a single individual. Solving the problem of an unsatisfied customer is a good example of a small reach that offers great value. Then there’s also the possibility of reaching a wide audience. A fun campaign has the potential of reaching millions of consumers. Good content always appeals to a large group of people.
  • Structural collaboration: both one-off contacts and structural relationships are possible on social media. A fun campaign may result in a positive one-off interaction, which in itself is valuable for both parties. This single contact may even develop into a genuine conversation. Also, social media provide a platform for structural collaboration with a group of people (staff, customers, suppliers, shareholders…).

The important thing is that both dimensions should create value for consumer and company alike. A modern company makes the most of social media by cultivating all four aspects: a wide or limited reach and loose or structural relationships. The long-term goal is inspiring customer commitment. Combining a wide reach with structural collaboration is an excellent goal.

If you achieve that goal, your company will benefit from four key quadrants. At the heart of the concept is the conversation philosophy (listening and engaging in dialogue) that forms the basis for the strategy. Here are the four key benefits of such an approach.

  • Customer experience: The favourite topic of conversation among consumers is the products and services companies have to offer. Solving the problems of individual people is by definition an action with a limited scope but it has a positive impact on that person’s conversation potential.
  • Conversation: This is the topic of my previous book, “The Conversation Manager”. Instead of communication the goal is to have a conversation. It’s all about listening, asking questions, facilitating conversations and taking an active part in them. Managing that conversation is the basic principle in this scheme.
  • Content: Give people something to talk about but do so in an authentic and positive manner that reflects the culture of your organisation. Do this well and you will reach a wide audience.
  • Collaboration: Involve the public in everything your company does. Invite them into your boardroom, make them an active part of your project teams and use their vision when making decisions. You can call upon a big group of people on a large open forum or you can connect with a small group of consumers in a closed community. Both these methods of involving the customer in corporate policy are meaningful and offer added value.

Thanks so much to Steven for the great insights and posts. For the full InSites Consulting report click here, and here are Steven’s website and slideshare links.