Impact of social media on client loyalty

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There has been much written about the impact of social media on client loyalty.  All the experts have weighed in and shared their insights. and ReadWriteWeb both published articles about the subject that you may want to read in conjunction with this post.

You may wonder why I feel it necessary to expand on the all the information already in circulation by writing yet another article on the subject.  In contrast to most of these,  my article is directed to the small and medium sized businesses that are looking for some practical ‘to do’s’ rather than an intellectual commentary.  Particularly businesses that cater to other businesses or have a product or service that’s not immediately perceived as ‘exciting’.  These businesses often flounder when it comes to exploiting social media because they perceive it as being either ‘too gimmicky’ or too consumer orientated.

Most marketing experts are agreed that use of social media has a positive effect on client loyalty.  If you’re just starting out in this territory, you may have some doubts about this.  I don’t blame you.  It’s simple and yet not easy to actually implement.  The logic is irrefutable, yet it requires considerable faith to go through the process required to actually begin reaping the rewards you’ve been hearing about.

I’ve covered the logic behind social media in other articles on this blog, so I’ll simply gloss over the fact that social media is the perfect tool for businesses with limited budgets.  Let’s just leave it at ‘you can’t get better than free’ in terms of publicity.

The key to getting good results is knowing how to use it effectively.

The basis of an effective social media strategy is to use your venue, or combination of venues, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on, to gather a community sharing a common interest to which your product or service contributes and to position yourself as a trusted friend in this community.

Your community may be large or it may be small.  What really matters is that it comprises people who are likely candidates for your product or service and that they are active.  Make it easy for these people to interact with you:  if you set up a blog, you want to have an RSS feed that people can subscribe to in order to keep them up to date with your latest posts.  You want to encourage interaction by means of attracting comments and providing information that will keep your audience engaged.  You also want to have a feed attached to the blog that disseminates the posts to your Facebook page and Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.  In this way, you can cover several venues with minimal time and effort.

Setting this up is just the beginning.  What you’re really aiming at is actually connecting with people who may buy your product and service.  You have the venues, now you need the traffic.  Mechanics of generating traffic is a huge subject. I will deal with this in more detail in upcoming articles.   In this article, I’m going to concentrate on things you can easily implement to engage your audience and which will help you be found by qualified prospective customers once you implement a traffic strategy.

One of the primary things you can do to create a lively and effective social media strategy is to offer your audience, who you want to convert to ‘friends’,  something they perceive as having a high value.  This would be something that they want and will use.  The easiest thing to offer is information.  Information can be created, offered and downloaded with minimal technical expertise or cost and can be made available in unlimited quantities for an unlimited period of time.

With the rapid changes in society and in technology, people are always looking for useful  ‘how to’ information. By offering the information they want, you are able to attract people who are potential customers.  Giving them value before they buy gives them an opportunity to experience your expertise and builds credibility.   They then see you as a trusted mentor rather than as a vendor.  This immediately raises your relationship status with them and heightens the purchase potential.  People prefer to buy from people they know and trust.

You don’t need to confine your offerings to your own work.  By offering other experts in the field an opportunity to share information on your venues. you not only benefit from their credibility and follower base, but you also create an additional level of activity on your social media site.

Another effective way to generate interest in your venues is to hold competitions which require readers to participate by commenting on posts on your blog. It’s an easy, practical and effective way of encouraging activity and fostering ongoing relationships.  Readers post their comments and come back over the course of the competition to check what other people are saying.  Publishing winners as soon as the competition is over enhances your credibility with all participants and ensures that next time you hold a competition, you’ll have a ready made audience willing to participate.

If you begin working this very basic social media strategy,  you’ll find that although results may take a little while to become apparent, once they do begin, they will continue – provided that you are diligent about posting regularly and offering what your target audience wants.

Whether your business is an industrial, commercial or even scientific, this strategy will work for you.  After all, if you have any market demand at all, there will definitely be information you can share with your target audience that’s of value to them and ultimately positions you as the expert of choice.  A quick search of the groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter will allay any doubts you have about whether your audience is engaged in social media or not.

If you’re in an information based business, you can offer useful giveaways without endangering the actual information products you are selling.  It can be a little tricky, but still, very effective.  After all, if you’re offering a great quality and quantity of very useful information for nothing, your audience will automatically assume that what you have for sale must be of an even higher caliber and well worth the investment.

The key is to understand both your product  and your audience. The most successful social media strategies revolve around a balanced offering of high value giveaways, great information and a subtle entertainment factor.  Your audience is more likely to return on an ongoing basis and purchase from you if they find interacting with you to be a pleasant experience.

In upcoming articles I’ll discuss details on  how best to get in front of a targeted audience and drive traffic to your social media venues.

In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss how you might implement a practical and inexpensive social media strategy for your business, either leave a comment or email me.  If you’d like to share your social media strategies or experiences, please post a comment below.

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