7 Ways to Use Social Media Beyond Conventional Marketing

Market Research Insights

Slightly more than one out of every five minutes spent online is spent on a social network, which is roughly three times the amount of time spent with email according to a recent Nielsen report. Part of the growth of social network usage is attributable to its ability to function as a relatively low cost communications channel in addition to its unique ability to enable interaction. From an enterprise perspective, the amount of time consumers spend on social media sites requires that businesses rethink how to maximize their use.

7 Ways to use social media beyond conventional marketing

Just as social media has enabled marketers to engage consumers, thereby extending their reach and increasing sales, social media’s capabilities can be effectively applied to improve processes and increase the profitability of other marketing-related functions. Seeing social media as only another form of conventional, in-your-face marketing, prevents management from leveraging the full strength of these new technologies to improve other aspects of their business. Here are seven major areas where social media can have a measurable impact along with the metrics to track in each case.

  1. Customer service is prime for social media applications. Social media forums like Facebook and Twitter allow for customer outreach, as well as support from fellow customers who understand their challenges with your products. Most notable among the companies using these techniques are Comcast Cares and Zappos. Additionally, YouTube and other video sharing sites can be used to give prospects and customers show-and-tell help for using their products. Also, question and answer sites like Yahoo Answers may be useful for some businesses.Metrics include tracking the number of inquiries sent via these channels, the number of customer questions answered by other customers, and patterns of change in the use of other customer service channels.
  2. Human resources. Social media enables human resources departments to extend their reach, enhance effectiveness, and reduce expenses. Sourcing open positions through social media networks can reduce headhunter costs while providing useful insights into new employees, particularly using LinkedIn. Further, social media provides platforms for companies to maintain relationships with former employees. This is useful since former employees have high potential to be future employees and/or customers, refer future employees and/or customers, or have other types of productive business relationships with the firm.Metrics may include reduced hiring costs, decreased time to hire, and improved job candidate quality. Also you might want to track business referrals from former employees.
  3. Sales can answer customer questions that surface at critical points in the purchase process closing sales and preventing customer defections. Among the social media platforms sales teams should monitor are Facebook, YouTube and/or Twitter.Metrics include tracking the number of customer questions answered on social media platforms, purchase cycle time, and customer sentiment towards your product and/or brand and how it may have changed during the purchase process.
  4. Product development areas use social media to engage prospects and customers directly to determine how they feel about your product offering and what type of improvements and related products they want. Often, these can be different than employees would predict.Metrics include reduced new product time to market, new product sales, and reduced product roll-out issues.
  5. Management can use social media platforms to interact with employees and extend other important relationships. Social media sites like Meetup can be used to create in-house events. Also, like other communications channels, social media allows management to track the competition.  Listen to your prospects and customers to hear how they’re assessing their purchase tradeoffs. Are they mentioning new and/or emerging competitors that you weren’t aware of? By following your competitors across different social media platforms, you can determine how competitors are using social media to message and communicate with your target market. Does your firm have any gaps? If so, what is being done to reduce them?Metrics. Count the number of employees who participate as a result of social media interaction, whether employee relationships improved as a result of using social media and if employee turnover is lower. This can be applied to other critical management relationships as well. In terms of competitive analysis, assess the relative positioning of your brands and products based on your customers’ feelings. Where possible track hard numbers such as sales and number of customers. Also, look for product gaps where you can extend your offering.
  6. Public announcements. For organizations and companies whose services require that the public get information to make their lives easier, social media, particularly Twitter, provides a great solution. Among the businesses that do this well are the Los Angeles Fire Department that tweets about fires to help drivers avoid traffic jams and JetBlue that tweets about delays and gate changes affecting more than just their direct customers.Metrics can be used to assess how much customer confusion and delays have been reduced as well as the reduction in the number of customer inquiries/complaints.
  7. Investor relations. Social media offers businesses another entry point to disperse investment information to shareholders, financial advisers and the media. Additionally use of social media enhances a firm’s image as being technologically savvy. A variety of content formats can be used including videos, podcasts, slidesharing and Twitter.Metrics include monitoring the number of people following and downloading various communications as well as improved branding in terms of appealing to a more technically astute audience.

With any social media strategy, it’s critical not to get lulled into thinking that it’s free. While use of these platforms may be free and/or relatively inexpensive, there are hard dollars associated with headcount to implement, monitor and use them as well as technology costs,  It requires a certain amount of thought, time and money to produce effective content and engagement with prospects, customers, employees, the media and the general public.

Do you have any other uses for social media? If so, please share them in the comments section.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Photo credit: Mike Baird via Flickr

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