Engaging Customers through Social Media (Part 1) | Milner Strategic Marketing

Engaging Customers through Social Media (Part 1)


Social media was THE hot topic in 2012, with social media “gurus” and “social marketing manager” job titles emerging everywhere. Using social media for personal use and as a channel for B2C brands is an obvious and well used extension, but using social media in the B2B space has been growing in popularity.

I have attended many social media conferences and have listened to webinars, which have provided social media tips on what to do and what not to do. I have heard the stats repeated over and over again;

Yes, there are lots of people using social media, and the number of people engaging through social media is increasing all the time.

I am not going to tell you that social media is the end-all solution to your company’s problems. Just because ‘everyone else is doing it’, that doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon too.

We have been advising clients about using social media and in our experience, the three most important things before incorporating social media into your company’s marketing strategy are to;

  1. View social media as another communications channel and not as a stand-alone solution,
  2. Think about how social media will fit in with your current communications plan, and
  3. Do your research to make sure you understand the social media channel, and determine whether your target audiences are using that channel

Integrating Social Media into your Communications Plan

Before going into any one of the specific social media channels (like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook), you should think of social media as another channel of communications – another way to reach your target audience.

The main difference between social media and other forms of communication is that it is more interactive and done in real time. PR, advertising and your web site can include a “call to action”, but are essentially a one-way communication.

Social media is often referred to as a conversation with your customer or market. When you are comfortable with this distinction about social media as a communications channel, you can move on to the steps necessary for any successful communications plan.

Steps in your Communication Plan

  • Objectives: What do I want to achieve?
  • Research: What social media channels are out there and how do they work?
  • Target Audiences: Who do I want to reach?
  • Key Messages: What type of messages do I want to communicate?
  • Content: Do we have enough content? Do we use a standard style for content like LinkedIn photos, photos of products or buildings?
  • Tone: How do I want to present our company?
  • Author: Who is the author of the content? Is it the company, individual employees, the CTO or CEO?
  • Approval Process: What is the sign off procedure? (Does the MD need to sign off every tweet, and every Facebook entry, or can I take messages that our company is already using and utilise them on our chosen social media channels?)
  • Success Measures/KPIs: How will I measure success? Is it the number of followers, re-tweets, likes or recommendations? Are my followers the right followers? (potential customers, partners, industry influencers)

Understand your social media channel

When you are doing your research some things you may want to think about in the social media selection process are:

  • How does this social media channel work?

-Twitter only allows you to tweet 140 characters and does not directly allow you to edit tweets, Facebook has a much larger text limit, and allows you to edit text immediately it is posted

  • Are my customers/potential recruits/partners using this social media channel?

-If potential customers are not using Twitter, then is it really where you want to spend your resources? Look at the other channels and find out where your customers are already engaging, and if necessary – test the channel*

*Social Media Channel Test Example: Client A wanted to engage through social media, but they weren’t sure which channels to use. They opened a LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook account. After 6 months they had a good following and engagement with their target audiences on LinkedIn and Twitter, but not on Facebook. Client A was using its resources to update and try to engage through Facebook but it wasn’t working because their target audience wasn’t using this channel. Client A shut down the Facebook channel, and is now focussing their resources on LinkedIn and Twitter, where their target audiences are engaging.

  • Do we have the resources to use this channel effectively?

-Many people underestimate the amount of time it takes to engage properly on social media. Make sure you have the right* people and the time to manage your chosen social media channels and engage appropriately

*Don’t force someone to ‘own’ your company social media. Find people in your company who are already active social media users, they will be the best people to promote your brand through your chosen social media channel.

  • Do we have enough quality content to use this channel effectively?

-Depending on the channel you use, some require more regular activity. If you don’t have enough quality content and if you don’t engage regularly on your social media channels, it could look like your company isn’t engaged or doesn’t care

Once you have thought about why you want to use social media, come up with a plan and done your research, open up your chosen social media channel and engage. The first few steps of finding your target audiences and engaging with them will take the most time, and there are always things to learn, so keep on top of the best practice for your chosen social media channel.

If you want to discuss social media and how it might be relevant for your business, call me in the office on 01473 633 123 or if you’re based at Adastral Park, drop by our office in the Ross Building.

(In the next Growing Company Value e-newsletter, we will share some tips and tricks for companies thinking of using the main social media channels.)

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