Website And Social Media CubesSocial media has seen a shift in web consumerism. Online shoppers are savvier these days and armed with anti-spam defences are more difficult to reach.

Yet the paradox is, social media networks still provide a powerful tool that enables companies to connect with customers, grow lasting relationships and understand customer needs.

Furthermore, one of the main ways in which a brand can show authority is conducting primary research versus simply sharing and repeating the research of other brands (secondary research).  Primary research provides unique value beyond what is already known and what is out there on the web already.

All you have to do is learn how to best conduct customer research on social media. The level of difficulty of course will depend on the number of followers you have.  In addition to followers there are several other ways in which you can gather some consumer and primary research from your social audience and customer base, as well as from random or specially selected panels and surveys.

You may therefore want to start this exercise by culling followers that do not engage with your content or visit your site. Shooting out a questionnaire that includes this question will lower your current followers to a manageable size.

After that, accruing followers should be conducted on a balance of probability they are genuinely interested in your content, brand and products. The days of blindly accruing as many followers as possible are over my friend!

Engaging with your community

The key to social networking is social networking. Once you have connected with a virtual “friend” it is good business sense to learn a little about them. First of all, make yourself visible by sending a quick message to thank them for connecting but be wary about using automated methods to do this.  Not all of your audience will appreciate you sending them an auto-direct-message and some will be actively offended that they have been treated as merely part of your automated process.  Another option is to send a tweet to them starting with their handle which should mean that unless someone is actively following all your individual tweets and replies the only automatic viewer will be the recipient of the handle based tweet.

Never try a direct sell on social media, but there is no harm telling someone – briefly – about you or your brand. If you can offer advice on something, invite them to ask questions.  Be careful you do not come across as someone simply looking to spam prospects.  The key to social really is about building relationships over the longer term.  That takes time.

Any dialogue you can generate among your connections goes towards building a relationship. This will inevitably increase your chances of leading to a conversion at some point in the future.

If you do not already have an established community that shares the same interest as your business, join one that is already up and running and has a reasonable amount of members. Then get involved.

Reviewing contact engagement

You will have more success building relationships with your customers if you know more about them, especially if you intend to pitch offers on social or via email.

Before pitching offers you should make sure that your offer is going to the right people. Consumers will typically unsubscribe from mailing lists if they receive too many misplaced promotions.

Assess the interests of your customers and build a consumer profile. What content are the sharing, what blog posts are they reading, what comments and questions are they posting on their wall? Most people brag about what they are doing.

Also be on hand to answer any questions people are raising. They may not be one of your contacts, but friends of your connections. Software is available that sends you alerts whenever keywords relating to your product or services are mentioned.

Reviewing social media accounts and building profiles is time-consuming – but so is maintaining social media networks every day. So if you are going to engage in social media marketing, at least take an approach that will get you conversions rather than putting in all that time for nothing.

Ethics and Social Media Research

An interesting piece of research was carried out by The University of Amsterdam on the ethics of researching on social media which is very useful and should be read.