Role of Social Media in Engaging Existing Clients and Winning New Ones

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1946 , Published on 27 December 2012
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What makes a ‘Client’ different from a ‘Customer’? It is nothing but the kind of relationship. The focus with the client is on how you deal with them, how you advise them rather than what you provide them which is the case with customers. So, if a company wishes to engage its existing clients as well as win some new ones, what all options does it have?

 

image:freedigitalphotos.net

One way is that if the company provides such great service to its clients, they not only appreciate the quality of service but also get attached to the company and become regular clients. Moreover, they share their experience with their friends and family and inspire them to try that company’s services too, thus indirectly helping the company gain new clients. But, how do they do that? Ummm…face to face interactions? Yup, that’s effective because it adds credibility to the statement but who has the time in this busy era to personally meet so often and share experience about a company during that meet? Recently, I read a status update of one of my friends on Facebook,

“Amazed by flipkart's outreach!

Just received my first order; their service is amazing!

Nice to see how their model has been incorporated in the current market!

Way to go!”

Such words about a company on a social networking site speak volumes of its service. I am sure my friend has become Flipkart’s client and most of his friends who are unfamiliar with Flipkart would also soon try its services.

So, yes you guessed it right! To provide an answer to the questions posed above, social media comes to the rescue of companies. Social media is an apt medium which connects people from all over the world without any constraints of time, reach or cost. Social media is that fast growing phenomenon which is transforming our lives at a really fast pace. This is mainly because of its viral and permanent nature and because of its ability to make information available to millions of people in fraction of seconds. There are a vast number of social media tools which can be used by a company to its advantage.

Figure 1 Social Media Landscape

Figure 2 Uses of Social Media in an Organisation

Methods of using Social Media

There are many ways in which social media can be used to engage the clients. Companies can conduct online surveys to know their client’s views, experiences and problems. The results thus generated can help the company provide solutions keeping in mind particular client behaviour or what you might call “a customized way” of treating its clients. It builds such a one – on – one connection with the client which makes him stay. Hence, it is imperative to use social media properly. For example, a social media channel such as a Facebook page must be designed with a specific online experience mind, say like a company’s Facebook page should segment its clients and send them to specific parts of the website rather than linking all of them back to a generic website. The company can also gather data from their profiles and use that to add a personal touch to their services. Use of social media to find client satisfaction score for a company can also show the way ahead. Such small practices decide whether the bond with the client is strengthened or the client is alienated.

Social media can help an organization work out its client engagement strategy simply by measure of its client’s participation i.e. by noticing how active or passive the participation is for any social media initiative. By measures such as the number of visits and time spent with the application/survey on a social networking site or any other social media or by the number of Facebook updates and Twitter pages about the company or by the number of membership sign ups, the company can gauge changes in awareness levels or word-of-mouth appreciation about the company over time. For this, the company first must use a proper social media mix such as one shown below:

Figure 3 Good example of Social Media Mix

One such example is Southwest Airlines which revamped its “Nuts About Southwest” blog with podcasts, videos and other social media tools leading to rise in the number of visits to the new and improved blog by 25%, increase in page views by 40% and increasing stay of visitors on the company’s website by 26%. The blog engaged customers on touchy subjects like assigned seating and used the results from 700 posts as a virtual focus group.

Figure 4 Nuts About Southwest

In order to win new clients besides engaging existing ones, creating brand awareness is the first step. By virtue of the social media environment, a company gains increased exposure to its brand every time a person uses an application designed by or about that company.

For example, several days before Election Day 2008, Starbucks ran a spot on the “Saturday Night Live” show as well as on YouTube, promoting a free coffee giveaway. As a result, Twitter mentions of Starbucks skyrocketed, averaging a mention every eight seconds. This translated into a sizeable increase in its brand exposure.

Another method can be to offer any complimentary services or discount coupons to valued repeated clients. There may also be some trial offers for first time users of the services of the company. Any such offer/post on social media which goes viral and generates buzz among people, increases brand exposure and enhances and strengthens associations of the brand with new or potential clients.

An example is Naked Pizza, a New Orleans, Louisiana-based business catering to health-conscious pizza lovers, which drew thousands of followers in just a few months because of its tweet in 2009.

Figure 5 Naked Pizza Twitter Page

Sales were also spurred by a billboard outside its shop encouraging customers to follow it on Twitter. The microblogging campaign’s success culminated in the company breaking its one-day sales record, with more than 68% of its sales coming from customers who were Twitter followers. Also on that day, 85% of the company’s new customers claimed they had been motivated to buy from Naked Pizza because of Twitter.

Figure 6 Naked Pizza Shop

Another way to engage clients is to hold contests and other marketing campaigns on social media. Burger King, in 2009, asked members of its “Whopper Sacrifice” Facebook application to unfriend 10 of their Facebook friends in exchange for a free sandwich. The campaign resulted in members actually unfriending a total of 234,000 Facebook friends.

Figure 7 Whopper Sacrifice Poster

Figure 8 Whopper Sacrifice Facebook Application

The abandoned friends monitored by the application received alerts informing them that they had been sacrificed for a Whopper. The offbeat campaign resulted in significant word of mouth for Burger King.

Figure 9 Whopper Sacrifice Notification

Conclusion

Social media mainly focuses on involving the client rather than just the company and hence is likely to generate commitment on the part of the client, reinforcing loyalty to the company. Had social media been just a fad, it would have been influencing just a narrow set of social people. But this is not the case anymore. Large organisations are making use of social media to understand the needs and requirements of their clients better and faster and hence are able to provide effective solutions for the same. It leads us to the conclusion that social media indeed plays a vital role in engaging new clients and winning new ones.

This article has been authored by Rishu Raheja from MDI Gurgaon.


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