Between 2014 and 2015, there has been a 110% increase in social media messages that require a response from a brand. As we bid goodbye to 2016 and move into 2017, this number is only going to increase even more in the coming years.
Real-time marketing hit the limelight with OREO’s 2013 Superbowl ad, and it has served as a path-breaking example in this arena. As a report by Intelligent Catalyst puts it, it seems to be time that we move further past the one-sided “push” of real-time marketing, to the more communicative “share” world of real-time engagement. It also mentions that fans on social media are looking not just for information, but also for answers, and that discussion and validation are other factors to keep them engaged.
Here are some strategies for businesses to engage effectively with fans in real-time:
Listening to the Customer
In harnessing the power of social media, most brands learn early on about the significance of listening to the comments and critiques from a fan base. The real power of Big Data lies in leveraging it to track and gauge what your followers are saying, and responding to these conversations suitably, maybe even proactively when possible.
Committing to a Focused Strategy
Real-time engagement is a strategy that the entire brand must commit to, and not the sole responsibility of the social media marketing team. Once this focus is achieved, the engagement comes through as genuine and would be recognised as such by the customers in the company’s fan base. The Hertz case study is an instance of how a cross-company initiative for social engagement provided great results. Their belief that “Social media doesn’t stop, neither does travel, and neither should we” has inspired them to proactively reach out to customers, and blur the lines between service, marketing, and sales.
Choosing the Right Channel for Your Campaigns
It is important to choose your social channels wisely. While a cross-channel strategy works well for some brands or specific campaigns, other brands might have a much larger fan base on a single outlet like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In such cases, it makes sense to focus your energy and investments on communicating with an existing fan base.
What to Watch Out for…
In the enthusiasm of engaging with fans and thinking up real-time engagement strategies, it is important to remember a few things:
- Build a good fan base before releasing an important campaign. This might involve listening rather than broadcasting for a period of time, but it will be worth it in the long-term.
- Do not focus only on trending topics and hashtags, but instead watch for the pulse of the customer and respond accordingly.
- It is important to be factually correct and do research since it is difficult to move back from gaffes on social media, like the “giraffes in Ghana” example quoted by Steve Olenski in this Forbes article.
- Remember that not all events are appropriate for brand engagement, and your sharing on social media must never be indiscriminate and just for the sake of grabbing eyeballs. This could tarnish your brand image in the mind of your customers and fan base. Take the example of a firearms brand like Beretta tweeting about 9/11, that just ended up sounding shallow and insincere.
Social media marketing remains a key factor that organisations must focus on, and real-time engagement is the new face of it. If a brand stays connected and listens to its customers, it is possible not just to expand your fan base, but to meaningfully engage with them as well. One must remember that although growing your fan base is important, maintaining your fan base is equally important. Proper engagement will help your brand to sustain its current fan base.