Social media continues to change the way businesses reach their customers. Companies are investing millions into their online marketing efforts, but are the results really paying off?
The numbers on popular online sites are impressive. More than 500 million tweets are broadcast on Twitter each day. Facebook users generate more than 4.75 billion “likes” daily. Companies such as Southwest Airlines, Ford Motor Co., Starbucks, Dell and IBM have demonstrated that social media success is definable and attainable. For example, Southwest Airlines has a five-person team that manages the company’s online presence 24 hours a day. The company receives 12 million monthly visits to its website and has millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook. The Southwest team posts hourly updates, including overnight when many people are sleeping.
Where does success start?
Corporate executives recognize the importance of social media in attracting and maintaining customers. According to a 2013 IBM survey of 4,000 C-Suite executives, 71% see the shift toward more social and digital collaboration. Interestingly, only 34% of organizations have an in-depth understanding of their customers and they expect this number to rocket to 78% by 2017.
Companies that recognize the value of social media understanding that there are increasing opportunities to engage customers. CEO’s and senior leadership teams now realize that social media can be used as a foundation for their brands to thrive. Social media allows companies to build and maintain customer loyalty through personal interaction. If customers feel valued, they will often share their experiences online. Brands such as Apple, BMW, Coca-Cola and Zappos are strong examples of this mentality. Those that take this approach from a long-term strategic advantage.
How to gauge social media growth
Social media marketers often use the term, Return on Investment (ROI), but it has gained a poor reputation in the industry mostly because many companies aren’t able to demonstrate meaningful business results from social media efforts.
A company’s experience or point of view of meeting the bottom line is relative and not necessarily definable by another. Companies using social media have a common ideology that success must be tied to a desirable business objectives. This requires a mindset that a deliberate investment of time, energy and resources is crucial to a successful social media program. In addition, companies need to have a clear understanding that business results must be based on definable intentions and goals, as well as a shared set of mutual values across the organization.
Do you know your customers and are you really listening?
The constantly changing world of social media requires savvy expertise. Listening to customers is essential for growth. For Austin-based Sweet Leaf Tea Company, their decision to discontinue pomegranate- and mango-flavored varieties led to a flurry of online support for the products. They listened to their customers and kept the tea flavors on store shelves. Social media worked. It can work time and time again.
Written by Marissa R. Anchia, Public Affairs Unlimited, LLC