Friday, 27 July 2012

Connecting with people

There is a stampede of brands at the social media fair. Every brand wants to be there and every brand wants to get their before their competition for every brand wants to connect with the digitally connected customer.  But unfortunately most want to do so without really understanding what makes their object of desire tick in the digital space, especially in social media - an environment where customers are in complete control and they choose who they want to have a relationship with.  Gone are the days, when customers were the passive recipient of a brand’s monologue in an effort to create a relationship with them. The shoe is indeed on the other foot.
We, the marketers, seem to have forgotten a simple truth we have known always. In building a brand offline, we have constantly peeped into our customers’ lives to look at every aspect which could help us to create a relationship with them. Having found what was meaningful enough, we have pitched a relevant promise – be it fresh breath confidence or beauty like a film star – most often, something the customers were looking for. This simple truth eludes us when we want to connect with our customers on Social media.
Brands seem to believe, they can ‘connect’ with their customers by just being present on social media.  But wait a minute, did anyone remember to check with their customers what would get them excited enough to ‘connect’?
For most customers, social media is about engaging with friends and family, accessing news or quenching their thirst for entertainment. For them, social media is definitely not a medium to interact with brands.
Brands will need to dig deep to uncover the insights which will get their desired customer to give it time, attention, endorsement and data. Brands need to carefully consider how they can create social media experience that is unique to their brand, offers customers adequate value and exploit the power of the social community.
Here are a few recommendations for brands, based on a research by IBM, which could possibly lay the foundation for a successful social media strategy
1. Start thinking like a customer. Find out why a customer would choose to interact with a brand. Recast social interaction strategies on finding a common value. Once the common value is shared and established, the intimacy will come.
2. If you don’t know what your customers value, ask them. Dialogue and participation is what social media is all about. Find creative ways to engage them in a dialogue. But remember, only once they are empowered to choose the outcome of the dialogue, will the advocacy and the brand affinity start to take shape.
3. Provide incentives. Find out what could be the incentives for people to share your content with friends to capitalize on the viral effect that social media offers.
4. Remember now the customer is in control. Rethink the traditional model of managing customer relationships which was passive and one way and adapt it to the new reality.
5.  The customer’s experience with the brand has to be seamless. Social solutions should not be devised as a standalone programme but has to be well thought through and integrated with other customer facing initiatives.    

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