In a recent workshop for a client, I was asked how they could use social media to increase their customer base, and generate more positive word of mouth marketing.

It was a good time to remind them that people do business with people they know, like and trust. Social media, when used properly, is an excellent way to engage with your customers, which helps to build trust. In order to influence purchasing decisions via social media, businesses need to have multiple touchpoints with their consumers.

Social touchpoints can include influencers and bloggers, online communities, online consumer reviews and direct communication.

Social media – such as Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest etc – also offers many opportunities to create consumer touchpoints.

Businesses first need to identify where they are on the social media engagement ladder.

Social Media engagement

Social Media Engagement explained

Level 1: Observing – At this level businesses are working out what social media is and how they can use it. It’s the learning phase and in this phase, there is no engagement with their audience.

Level 2: Broadcasting – The broadcasting level is often also known as the let’s-spam-them-with-as-much-sales-information-about-our-business-as-we-can-and-hope-they-buy-something. There is no conversation, negligible engagement, and no goodwill being generated. All you’re doing is distributing your marketing material. It’s one-way communication much like advertising. Let me tell you right now, this rarely works as a social media tactic, and usually just serves to annoy your audience. And frankly, the people who took the time to follow you deserve a whole lot better. Yes, it’s a touchpoint, but for most people, it’s akin to unwanted spammy emails. So please don’t do this.

Level 3: Conversation – This level is where we start to move from one-way conversation to two-way, and real engagement with your customers starts to take place. The key word in the phrase “social media” is social – so it’s critical that we have conversations. They are an essential part of starting to become known. Please don’t feel that all conversations need to have a heavy business focus. The strongest business relationships I have built on social media started as social conversations talking about food, TV shows (especially Masterchef and The Voice – please don’t judge me!), local and global events, more food, the weather and little rants about things that annoy me (putting the peanut butter back in the cupboard when the jar is essentially empty. ARGH!).

Level 4: Relationships – Once you move on from casual conversation, relationships start to form, and this is when people start to like you. Relationships can move from casual to more committed, as your audience starts to like you and your brand. Engagement is increasing and positive word of mouth usually starts to occur.

Level 5: Collaboration – The shift between the relationships level to the collaboration level is when organisations start to realise the benefits of providing value for others vs taking the value for themselves. This level, when value is truly given without expectation, is when trust is maximised. It’s important to remember that trust isn’t built overnight – it takes time and energy.

I equate the Social Media Engagement to dating. First, you just observe what’s out there. Then you broadcast your intent – this might be via an online dating site, or by getting dressed up and going out. Once you see someone you like, you introduce yourself and start the conversation. Some time passes and you are having a relationship. Finally there is the collaboration phase – often known as living together or marriage! You wouldn’t move in with someone, or marry them, as soon as you met them – it takes time for know, like and trust to be established. Building relationships via social media is no different.

Where is your business on the Social Media Engagement Model?

Mel Kettle works with associations, not-for-profits and businesses to help them communicate effectively and authentically using social media so they attract, retain and engage their members and customers. To inquire about Mel’s Social Media Strategy Day, please email mel@melkettle.com or click here.

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