There’s no denying that social media is rewriting the way businesses connect, communicate and engage with customers. The rise of the social channel has put a real-time spin on customer relationships, enabling companies to reach new levels of intimacy and obtain a nuanced understanding of the market’s wants and needs.
This shift is reflected in the Sensis 2012 e-Business report, which found that 27 per cent of Australian companies currently use social media for business purposes, up from 10 per cent in 2010 and 18 per cent in 2011. The report also identified that Facebook was by far the most widely used form of social media, noting that five out of 10 SMEs with a social media presence drew on the popular social networking platform to raise awareness of their brand.
However, the social media space is often clouded by hype as businesses scramble to establish a social media presence without giving thought to strategy. And although Facebook has attracted much of the buzz to date, it might not be the best fit for every business.
In the last few years, channels such as Twitter and Pinterest have created new avenues for engagement while allowing businesses to foster powerful dialogue with customers. Twitter can serve as a major repository of real-time data and insight while Pinterest is fast gaining momentum for its focus on visual inspiration and social curation.
Fun with Twitter
If used successfully, Twitter can be a powerful tool for driving brand awareness, consolidating your customer relationships and presenting you as a thought leader. However, if your approach to Twitter is anything less than strategic, your tweets will start to resemble white noise. Twitter is about building an authentic social media presence and sharing links and information that your customers will find relevant and interesting – tweeting a series of thinly veiled sales pitches will do more harm than good.
It’s also important that you follow up with a customer every time there’s a grievance or complaint. This is a form of social customer care that can reverse the negative effects of a mishap and restore your relationship with the customer.
Embrace Twitter-based tools
Businesses that aren’t embracing Twitter-based tools such as HootSuite and TweetDeck are missing opportunities to observe trending topics and engage in relevant dialogue as a result. These forms of software allow businesses to track hot topics via hashtags and identify social media influencers – factors that can seriously accelerate your social media strategy. Similarly, the URL shortener bitly can help you measure referral traffic – just create bitly links each time you direct users back to your company’s website.
Put a pin on it
High-growth virtual pinboard service Pinterest has emerged as a surprise contender in the social media stakes, with a March 2012 report by TechCrunch showing that it now generates more referral traffic than Twitter. The social sharing site allows users to share and curate images and design inspiration, an attribute that can offer vital consumer insights and help businesses stay on top of trends. However, Pinterest is best suited to businesses with a heavy visual or design focus – fashion retailers and lifestyle brands are best placed to see the benefits.
Top tip: Be selective about what you curate
Like Twitter, Pinterest is about creating authenticity and connecting with the users that are valuable to your brand. That’s why you must focus on creating content that your target demographic finds interesting rather than just sharing the products you sell. It’s also helpful to identify those who are re-pinning your pins and follow them back – it’s a great way to forge connections and drive your referral traffic.
Twitter and Pinterest are powerful social channels that can reap big dividends for your brand. Just make sure you think critically about the way you deploy them to obtain the best results.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Neha Kale is a freelance writer and editor with over six years’ experience in the media and finance industries. She has held senior editorial positions at various business and technology publications and specialises in online strategy, innovation, creativity and management best practices.