The customer journey has changed. With as much as 90% of a buyer’s journey being self-directed, according to Forrester Research’s 2015 report, “Don’t Let Muddled Messaging Compromise Customer Experience,” it’s clear that the modern customer journey now begins with self-education.
Marketers are seeing a tremendous shift in how buyers are researching and buying, particularly on social media platforms. In fact, 55% of B2B buyers do their research by using social networks, according to a Business.com study, and Forbes research revealed that 78% of people say that their buying decisions are influenced by a company’s social media posts. Social channels provide a real-time platform where buyers can share information, research products, make informed decisions, and come to their own conclusions when it comes to their purchasing decisions.
Whether you’re ready for it or not, social media is becoming the Wikipedia for your buyers, where they can find information about your brand from their peers. Let’s take a look at how you can engage with your buyers on social media throughout the customer journey:
1. The Many Roles of Social Media
It’s important to remember that engagement with a brand doesn’t necessarily begin or end with a purchase. Your buyers are increasingly looking to social media for information that guides them through every stage of the customer lifecycle.
Social media helps your buyers:
- Keep up with the latest trends and new products and services.
- Share their favorite products and brand experiences. Teradata reports that 61% of consumers say they would tell their friends about their good experiences.
- Learn more about a brand, product, or company and educate themselves on possible purchases.
- Listen to what others are recommending or talking about. 71% of consumers are likely to purchase an item based on social media referrals, as reported by Social Media Today. Buyers want validation that they’re making the right choice, so one person’s review on social media informs another person’s research. Offering easy access to third party reviews and testimonials can help alleviate buyer hesitation.
- Interact with their friends, favorite brands, communities.
- Ask for support from companies. Your customers expect their complaints on social to be addressed, and addressed quickly. Brands that provide the best customer experience and service have the highest retention rates.
2. Engage with Your Buyers Along Their Journey
There’s a unique opportunity for marketers to meet the needs of their buyers on social channels by embracing every facet of the customer journey from education to advocacy. A successful social media marketing plan will include a strategy for developing long-term relationships, so consider how you will not only acquire new customers, but what steps you’ll take to consistently provide value to your customers, and in turn, hopefully create brand advocates.
As you’re engaging with your buyers on social media, it’s critical to:
- Know your audience. Whenever you’re posting, understand who your followers are and what they care about. Let’s say, for example, that your brand is known for being a cutting edge cosmetic company. Your followers will most likely be interested in seeing posts that highlight the latest trends, cosmetic tips and tricks, and how to’s. That’s not to say A/B testing isn’t warranted, just be strategic about your brand voice.
- Respond to negative feedback appropriately. With social listening, you can instantly identify both positive and negative feedback. How you respond to feedback says a lot about your brand. Acknowledging positive feedback promotes a community of sharing and further engagement, and responding quickly and appropriately to negative feedback can increase customer loyalty and retention. As Jay Baer says, “When you answer all the complaints in every venue, you’ll instill more value in your brand.”
- Be authentic. Maintain an authentic brand profile and be consistent about it. Your tone of voice should feel genuine, not forced. If you consistently communicate with your audience as if you were marketing to a single person, you’ll come across as more personable. Think about how you can humanize your tone so that when you take part in conversations, it seems natural.
- Engage buyers as individuals. One of the easiest ways to do this is by responding to your audience when they mention you in conversations to show them that you are listening to them and appreciate them. Recently, one of our customers posted a picture of a himself using our branded water bottle. Instead of simply favoriting the post, we continued the conversation by thanking him for sharing the post with us.
- Pay attention to buyer behavior across all social channels. Create a single, integrated view of your personas. There are several tools you can use for listening, everything from native platforms to a social media management platform like Hootsuite, Sprinklr, or Buffer. These platforms allow you to monitor for brand mentions, hashtags, keywords, or phrases. With social listening, you’ll also be able to identify influencers and advocates.
- Meet buyers where they are with omni-channel marketing. Not sure where your buyers are? Here are a few tricks to find them:
- Just ask them! You can do this through autofill forms for content downloads, newsletters, or even your shopping cart. In addition, you can integrate social referral capabilities into your campaigns through a marketing automation platform.
- Use the search function in the native social platforms. Simply enter the names of some of your prospects and customers into the social channel’s search engine to determine if they have an account. You can also search for relevant topics, brands within your niche, or relevant industry leaders. This is especially helpful when you have a short list you’re researching. In Twitter, for example, you can use the advanced search option to look for not only topic words or phrases, but also geographic location and sentiment.
3. Track Your Progress
How can you tell if you’re succeeding with engaging your buyers on social? There are several ways to measure engagement. It’s not about one complete metric, but rather a combination of several. Monitoring and understanding how each metric correlates is pertinent when reviewing your results.
Here are a few ways to figure out whether your engagement strategy is working:
- Native platform analytics: Benchmark your followers, likes, comments, shares, retweets, replies, favorites. Increases in these soft metrics show that you’re doing something right and that you’ve successfully created interest around your brand. If you’ve implemented a social media strategy and don’t see an uptick in these metrics after a few months, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board.
- Social listening: Monitor sentiment in mentions. 42% of people will tell their friends about a good customer experience on social, while 53% will talk about a bad one, according to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer. A great way to gauge if your audience is finding value in your social channels is to listen to what they’re saying.
- Direct interactions: Get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Spend time interacting with your followers and asking for direct feedback. Often, I ask questions in my posts to garner feedback. Utilizing Twitter polls is also a fun, easy way to ask a question and get instant feedback.
- Calculate conversion rates: At the end of the day, money talks. If your followers are converting to sales, you’re doing something right. Here at Marketo, we use our platform to track the number of leads our paid social campaigns generated that become actual customers.
- Monitor engagement from influencers: It’s important to consider who is sharing content relevant to your business. Every subject has a niche of influencers that can potentially help raise awareness around your brand/product. Once you’ve defined a list of 20-25 influencers, be proactive about engaging with them and building a relationship by commenting on and sharing their content. People are much more willing to share your content when you’ve shared theirs. And don’t forget to be human. Influencers are people, and once you’ve built rapport with them, the relationship will grow naturally and hopefully become mutually beneficial.
Whether you’re just starting to engage your buyers on social media or you’re looking for ways to improve your relationship with them, put them at the center of everything you do. Relationships don’t end at the point of sale, and they’re the most valuable when both parties can reap the benefits.
How are you using social media to guide your buyers through the customer journey? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!