“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”
– MARK TWAIN
In today’s world of neo-marketing, if relationship is the king, it dwells in the kingdom of community, and undoubtedly social media is the Queen that builds, holds and nurtures the relationship. Anybody who has anything to do with marketing, understands that building strong relationships with existing customers is way more effective than acquiring new customers. With the advent of unstoppable reach of social media and web 2.0, there is no denying that brands cannot build, strengthen or control their relationships without taking resort to social media. With the rise of Social Media, the balance of power has tilted towards individuals and to a greater extent, to communities. Consumers are no longer an entity which “consumes” only, instead they contribute, spread and above all “make friends” with what they consume. As IBM aptly explains in its recent Whitepaper: “With social media, though, customers (and their highly influential virtual networks) are now driving the conversation, which can trump a company’s marketing, sales and service efforts with unprecedented immediacy and reach.” To highlight few aspects of this new affair, which is catching all the limelight:
- Do you wanna Partner:
The marketing mantra says one needs to see a potential customer among the “strangers”, entice her with communications to “acquire” her, by gratifying and catering to her needs making her “friend” is the next step, by enhancing the established relationship making her “partner” will be the dream come true for the marketer. With numerous individuals finding their life partners in the social media worldwide, is it very difficult to imagine that a brand will also find the same? It actually works both ways. Consumer Behavior advocates that when a customer subscribes to a brand, she actually acquires a friend, in the brand. With brand personified engagement on social media, a brand can take this friendship to the next level: Partner. Obviously this won’t happen overnight, this requires, patience, consistence and time. What do I mean by partners? When selling your product or service, you tend to address a particular need. If the need gets properly addressed your customer becomes happy. But if you make her your partner, she becomes happy, not only because her need got addressed, but because she got to get associated with you. You are now making her your brand ambassador.
- Participation is Marketing:
In 1999, the Cluetrain Manifesto first shed light on the potential impact of Social Media on future marketing universe. They provided a new definition of Market: Markets are conversations. In 2007, when media marketer Chris Heuer coined “Participation is marketing”, he actually meant, markets can be created by constant value adding engagements. Today trust can no longer be bought using advertisement dollars, but only with ongoing and real dialogues, with following communities everywhere where your brand is mentioned, and engaging altruistically in real conversations. Unless you walk a mile in your customers’ shoes, you can never understand them: who does not know the outcome of marketing without understanding the market? Apocalypse. When the old brand Graco, dealing in children’s products, tried to find traction among young parents social media engagement only could bring fruits to them. By “conversation mining”, they actively engaged with their customers, listened to what they were talking about, and took part in every conversation. Their new parental blog attracted articles from parents, active twitter presence pushed up their rank in SERP and search engine spiders could no longer ignore them. The bottom line is simple: You really need to be omnipresent.
- Community is your Oxygen:
Once you have identified your target segment, you need to be a part of the community they belong to. Online communities are becoming more influential than media outlets. Loyalty can be sought only when you nurture genuine relationship with the community members.
Any marketer’s dream is to have community built around his own brand, like Harley-Davidson Riders’ group. You do not need to talk about your brand or product always, you need to genuinely participate in the community for the sake of participation. Bangalore has long been witnessing increasing number of Bengali communities, Bengalis in Bangalore(BiB), Hattogol, Bangalore’e Bangaliyana are few popular ones. The members not only socialize here on Facebook, they form WhatsApp groups, meet regularly, go for rides, trips, pubbing, clubbing and restaurant hopping. Among many Bengali restaurants, some become active members of these communities. Kitchen of Joy, Panch Foron, Kolkata Biriyani are some examples who actively participate in these communities and have become an integral part of them. Kolkata Biriyani even contributed 5% of their monthly profits to orphanage visits, which are regularly conducted by “Bangalore-e-Bangaliyana”. No wonder people not only wish “happy birthday” to these restaurants’ Facebook pages but also rank them higher while opting to eat out.
- Don’t get too hard, but get heard:
“Content is fire, Social Media is the gasoline”-Jay Baer
It does not matter how loud you shout out from your rooftop, people won’t listen to you, unless you engage them, interest them and be one of them. Social Media provides unique opportunities to brands to get heard, if you can interest potential opinion leaders, either by addressing one particular need, or by saying something interesting, emotional or controversial: once you catch the limelight, your name can spread like a forest fire. But you have to do it in a transparent way. Caminito Argentinean steak house gained popularity in Northampton not just by advertising, but through their active social presence on Blog, YouTube and Myspace.
- Manage your Image:
With efforts spanning infinite timelines, you may have built an emperor of trust, loyalty and reputation. But in today’s world of digital networking, one single flaw may destroy this empire in a few mouse clicks. But with active presence on social media you can at least repair the damage, or even stop it at a nascent age. With active engagement, you may assure your victims, that you are there, and do whatever you can to compensate them. Your product may be faulty, admit it. It’s important to own up your mistakes. You need to respond quickly and positively. Nobody wants to go unheard, especially when they have been wronged. By simply apologizing you may appease them in the first place. Explain to them how you are going to address it. You should always be available to address the issues, ease concerns and give it a place where the conversation can go offline and thereby stop the forest fire from spreading.
Now that I have established, the importance for you to attend the wedding of “Relationship Marketing” and “Social Media”, you may visit 10 Rules of Social Media Engagement to understand the 10 golden rules of active engagement, or 19 Ways to Build Relationships With Blog Comments to understand how you can seek active participation from your partners, I mean, your prosumers (prosumers= producers+ consumers).