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Use social media to boost customer relationships

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Social media is redefining how organisations engage with their customers and vice versa.
Jennifer Mbesa, HR manager at RDB Consulting, a database and operating systems outsourcing company, says outsourcers need to take advantage of the success and impact of business-oriented social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to differentiate themselves from the competition.
“Customer data and feedback provides companies with the enhanced ability to analyse upcoming trends and to innovate,” says Mbesa. “In addition, real-time customer engagement allows for deeper relationships to be built, and for companies to share valuable information and insights with their customers. It also enables outsourcers like RDB to position themselves as thought leaders in their particular industry sector, to grow their reputation, and to redefine how they interact with customers.”

Connecting with clients on social media channels
According to the SA Social Media Landscape 2015 study there are now 3,8-million LinkedIn users in the country, a 40% increase compared to last year.
A LinkedIn company page is an excellent way to show customers and your professional community what you can do, Mbesa says. “One of the best ways to network on LinkedIn is to join and participate in groups in your field. LinkedIn Groups provide the opportunity for RDB Consulting to create and take part in industry discussions with peer groups, and exchange information and updates. It’s the perfect place to maintain active discussions with peers and colleagues. You can also use LinkedIn to seek feedback and conduct surveys.”
All of these features allow outsourcing consultants to develop deeper relationships with their community, share relevant and interesting content to their network, provide important status updates, and give their community valuable content that they may not have access to elsewhere. In addition, LinkedIn groups encourage people to start and engage in conversations and to ask questions.

The Twitter advantage
Much like their global counterparts, South Africa’s 6,6 million Twitter users discuss everything from news to brands and business.
“Twitter allows companies to get their message out into the market,” says Francois Muscat, marketing consultant to RDB. “You can share content you have generated, or spread articles out to your fans and followers to increase your reach and social influence. Access is direct and immediate, and specific people can be targeted. Twitter is an excellent environment in which to generate word of mouth. In addition, promoted tweets can amplify your message and target it at the right audience, in the right place, at the right time.”

Planning the content
To ensure that your content meets organisational goals and engages your intended audience, you need to devote time to developing a content plan.
“It’s important to note how few outsourcing companies have a comprehensive content marketing strategy,” says Muscat. “The good news is that companies that taking the take time to plan their content will therefore have an advantage over their competition because good, attention-grabbing content is the key to being heard over all the noise, and it starts with a consistent, effective strategy.
He offers a few tips to follow to create a content plan that will yield results:
* Have between five to ten pieces of content ready before you launch any social media page. In the case of outsourcing companies, that content could include advice-giving articles on hot topics like managing the transition to outsourcing, which is a concern to many potential customers thinking about going that route.
* It’s also useful to provide training material related to the products and services offered by your organisation.
* Include information on research and metrics in your industry to keep your audience informed. On that note, remember to inform first, and sell second.
* Optimise the content you share by making good use of key words, relevant hashtags, and high-resolution images.
* Space out your posts to ensure that communication is sustained and even.
* Remember to respond to all questions and comments, even the negative ones.