Plenty of marketers are trying to understand how to make use of social media. It can be an extremely powerful way to engage your current customers and capture new ones, tapping into a plethora of good customer-level data that is supplied by social media applications. The trick is to use this data strategically within your current marketing programs to make the most of what your customers and prospects are saying about you. Two ideas to consider:
1. Welcome programs—Everyone knows that establishing a welcome program to warm up your new customers is an excellent tool. Welcome programs allow you to establish your brand with your customers and prime them to expect communication from your organization. Plus, this strategy gets results: Companies that run welcome programs typically see a 200 percent to 300 percent increase in conversion rates on those customers who open the welcome program e-mails.
We also know that humans are inherently social beings, looking for the approval or recommendations of others to help make decisions. Examples abound of companies that have implemented product recommendation solutions on their sites and then seen sales increases between 20 percent and 75 percent.
So why not combine the two to create a powerful conversion engine for your company? Take the positive comments generated by your users on specific products or about your company and place them into the content of your welcome program. The difference between a company's claim of greatness and that same assertion made by a customer advocate can equal millions of dollars of revenue. For example, a major pet supply retailer recently started this process and immediately tripled its conversion rate on the welcome program.
2. Forward-to-a-[social media network of your choice]—Another example of working social media into the customer communication process involves replacing a traditional forward-to-a-friend e-mail program with a social media forward. Most of the customers who regularly promote your brand ("promiscuous sneezers," as Seth Godin calls them) are already active on social communities such as Facebook or LinkedIn. By adding a forward to a Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious or MySpace link on your e-mails, you can rapidly grow your e-mail subscriber list or the reach of each e-mail program to the networks of your best customers. This generally works better than a forward-to-a-friend e-mail feature because it requires much less effort on your customers' part to make the referral. And your organization gets an immediate, no-cost boost in referred exposure.
A B-to-B marketer recently added such a link to its HTML e-mails and saw a tenfold lift in referrals compared to its traditional forward-to-a-friend link.
The conversation about your company and your customers is happening all around you. If you have a social media presence, look for the key data points that will allow you to accelerate your current marketing programs. Information nuggets such as product recommendations, positive comments about your company or referral links are readily available to you today. And while you are taking advantage of these endorsements, plug into the negative comments as well to gain valuable feedback that can help you improve your product mix and customer service.
Jeff Hassemer is a 15-year database marketing veteran and vice president, product management of Entiera, a provider of on-demand marketing automation solutions. He can be reached at (763) 559-0902.