Every online and offline activity you perform as a business owner should have the ultimate goal of increasing consumer trust. As I mentioned last time, visibility is the first step toward this goal, followed by quality content that gives searchers something worth seeing.
One of the primary tools for increasing your visibility is social media. Not only does it reinforce your brand as you engage consistently with consumers, it gives them a direct line to connect with you. Customer engagement improves your brand image and piques the interest of newcomers.
Most people want to feel that they’re doing business with a human, not a faceless corporation. Making your business accessible via social media shows that you care about your clients and enables you to respond to current events in real-time.
If you feel a distance from current patrons, but you’ve covered the other aspects of brand image discussed in my previous article, they may simply find you too impersonal. No one feels very motivated to care about a company if they think the company doesn’t care about them.
Here are some things that widen the distance between you and the public:
Social media is not the only forum you should use for consumer engagement, but it’s one of the best places to start. Brands with high online activity in forums like social media tend to do better in search results than brands that don’t. If you aren’t using the tools you have at your disposal to connect with the market, you’re going to be overlooked.
With trust in established authority figures (ad agencies, CEOS, etc.) falling year by year, consumers have overwhelmingly proven that they find word-of-mouth recommendations from their peers to be the most reliable form of marketing.
You can facilitate this with social media by giving your followers something to talk about. Informative content, charitable outreach and a short response time to customer inquiries are foolproof ways to let people know you’re the real deal. Whenever you get a positive mention from someone else, be sure to feature that on your own feed too.
In addition to great content, are you making sure that your transparency is showing the level of integrity you pursue? You must be above reproach in their dealings if you hope to acquire and gain consumer confidence. Don’t forget to include transparency in your reviews as well. Respond to good and bad reviews, make changes based on their suggestions, and your brand image will skyrocket.
Engaging with your customers also goes far beyond tweeting at them several times a day. Use your business’s history and the trending topics in your field to determine exactly what customers are looking for. Then, give it to them through the things you post about, the items you stock, the way you treat shoppers in your brick-and-mortar locations, and the causes you support. For more inspiration on connecting with consumers, check out ExactTarget’s 45 social media tips.
As wonderful as social mentions are, there’s no real substitute for moving a client to rave about your services or products in face-to-face conversation. It’s easy for followers to share or retweet your latest promotion; but when they actually start talking you up in person to their friends and family, you know you’ve made a brand advocate.
Emotional loyalty of that caliber is best built through exceptional service. You will make periodic mistakes; but if you go the extra mile to make amends and proof your system against repeat occurrences, customers will often value you more than they did before.
Think about how private individuals use social media. They like to share lifestyle tips with their friends, save inspirational quotes and images, and commemorate fun experiences. Much of the fuel for this comes from life away from the devices. After all, what good are pinned recipes if you never get off the computer to cook them? If you never go out with friends, what experiences will you have to remember?
Take a cue from your followers and use your social media as a way to call attention to your offline activities. If you’re hosting or attending an event, don’t just live-tweet the highlights; get people there! Print ads work well for calling attention to offline affairs. Combine print and digital promotions to let people know what’s happening, and which website or hashtag they can follow to join in. Flyers on community bulletin boards, posters left (with permission) in local shops, and door hangers in solicitation-friendly neighborhoods are all great ways to get the word out.
Social media is a critical tool in modern marketing, but it alone will not get you the brand engagement or consumer trust that you need. Use your social accounts as a stepping stone that helps people reach your first-rate content and your offline presence, as both of these are extremely important to building the interpersonal connection you need for your business to thrive.
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