Harnessing The Marketing Power of Social Networks

Harnessing The Marketing Power of Social Networks

March 29, 2012



With mobile devices, ubiquitous network connections and social applications all forming a natural backdrop to our everyday lives, customers have an increasing range of touchpoints to engage with brands. As a result today’s consumers are everywhere. They are browsing products in-store, researching reviews on mobile devices, posting feedback on social networks and consuming services online.

To manage the evolution of a cross-channel customer successfully, brands need to develop a single view of the customer that incorporates their interactions across different channels. To achieve this, companies need to overhaul existing processes and implement holistic IT systems that remove the silos within organizations to deliver a more granular view of the customer.

For example, when a customer is approaching the end of their mobile phone contract it is important that businesses have a single view of the customer that outlines where users are in the buying lifecycle, their purchasing history and past interactions. This information allows different teams, such as sales and marketing, to work together to target customers with customized content that encourages users to renew their existing agreement.

Unlocking the potential in social networks

One factor that cannot be ignored with the evolution of a cross-channel customer is their engagement with social media. The latest data from web measurement company, ComScore, reveals that Facebook now accounts for 18 per cent of people’s internet time in the UK. While, according to Online Schools, Facebook is now used by one in every 13 people with over 250 million accessing the site every day. These users are interacting with brands by leaving feedback on their pages, taking part in surveys and clicking through to company websites to make purchases. In addition, they are doing this through a variety of devices, on the go and with increasing selectiveness.

Engaging social customers in the buying lifecycle

Over the last year, we have seen recognition that the most loyal customers are interacting with brands across social networks. In response to this companies are carefully monitoring what customers are saying across these platforms and using the information to engage customers across other channels. For example, a customer that complains over Twitter may then receive a direct message or call to help resolve any problems.

We have also witnessed an increase in brands that offer incentives encouraging users to connect with the company across Facebook and Twitter. Retailers such as ASOS, for example, have developed sophisticated marketing campaigns designed around social media by providing customers that follow the brand on Twitter or ‘like’ the Facebook page with special offers, discounts and exclusives designed to engage users in the buying lifecycle.

As brands prioritize their outreach across social media, social is emerging as the killer outbound channel for driving customers to other acquisition avenues. Brands that can engage customers across social media by delivering relevant information in real-time develop the ability to influence discussions and become established as opinion formers within customer networks. This then encourages customers and prospects to engage with the company across other channels such as email, mobile or in-store.

We already have evidence that shows social networks play a major role in helping customers make purchasing decisions. According to IBM’s annual consumer survey, 50 per cent of respondents with internet access and between the ages of 16 and 64 currently use social networks to assist with shopping decisions. In addition, 35 per cent of survey respondents confirmed that they use social network sites to read product reviews. As a result, the key for businesses is being able to monitor social network interactions effectively so that they can target consumers with customized content designed to drive sales.

By combining an active presence on social networks with accurate monitoring of the interactions taking place, marketers can target customers with information that builds relationships and acts as a call to action. However, to do this, organizations need to be able to collate customer data and bring it all together to implement holistic marketing campaigns across the variety of channels available.

Turn social networks into a high-impact sales channel

Brands also need to go one step further and truly incorporate social interactions within the sales process to be successful. Companies need to introduce sophisticated order processing systems that allow consumers and prospects to search products, add the item to their shopping cart and pay for the product, fulfil it and bill across the different channels.

With more businesses developing new capabilities for mobile apps and m-commerce websites, it is imperative that businesses enable a cross-channel customer experience. For example, if a potential customer sees someone from their social network ‘like’ a product that company should enable the customer to easily click through to the company’s website or download its app.

Over the next 12 months we will continue seeing evolutions in social media with it being increasingly incorporated into new channels such as connected TVs and real-time advertising. Only by taking advantage of new technologies that streamline the back office and improve collaboration between different departments can companies take advantage of everything social media has to offer.

Ultimately social media is not about converting sales, it’s about monitoring the interactions that take place and using this data as part of a holistic marketing programme. Only then will organizations be able to build key performance indicators such as developing share or increasing brand awareness using social media, and showcase its value to the business.