Move over traditional marketing, there’s a not so new kid in town. Once upon a time we were influenced to buy the products with the best TV and print ads, or those endorsed by the most popular celebrities. Those tactics are now just a few components, if at all a part of a larger marketing strategy. Today, if Suzie and her 500 friends like it on Facebook, it’s likely worth a second look. A growing number of companies are taking the Facebooking, Tweeting and Pinning, Suzie’s of this world seriously. The masses that have embraced social media are not only a major part of marketing, they are working hard at developing the next generation of many a product; whether they know it or not.
Richard Branson of Virgin, explains how they were among the first to harness the power of social media in a 2012 interview with CNBC.
“Many companies were very cautious and slow to start using social media… My team and I jumped in quickly and started to experiment — over the years we have always pushed each other to be innovative and approachable.
We soon found that these channels were an amazing tool for reaching our customers and the public. One of the first things we learned was that our new social media accounts gave us a real-time view of how we could improve. Through customers’ comments, we started learning about issues with our products and services more quickly than ever before.
When we bought Northern Rock, a bank in the U.K., in late 2011, people had a low opinion of banks, and we knew it would be hard to change their minds. We asked our followers on Twitter what we should call the new business…the interest and thought that the discussion about the name inspired helped us to build stronger bonds between our new company and its customers.”
Virgin Media also engaged Fresh Networks to develop the Virgin Media Sofa a closed on-line community of customers they describe as “superadvocates”.
“Our community managers, as well as Virgin Media staff, regularly engaged with community members to keep them informed about company news and to seek their input about new products and ideas, ensuring that the community remained at the forefront of a collaborative innovation process.
Community members also received regular updates about existing products and services in order to learn more about Virgin Media’s offering. The Virgin Media Sofa also hosted a range of polls and surveys where customers could submit new ideas, as well as vote for their favourite suggestions.”
Lessons for Others:
Listen: Take it all in. Your customers actively using social media are the best focus group you are going to get and can be integral to product development and innovation. Be prepared to manage the good feedback and the bad. Coach your social media team on the most appropriate way to manage criticism, it won’t always be constructive.
And, a couple of lessons from Richard Branson:
“…you should start establishing your social media presence if you haven’t already. The easiest way to start is often by setting up a help line, so that customers can ask questions about your product or service. Listen and respond thoughtfully, and you’ll be on your way.”
“Above all, remember to be authentic and organic, answering questions in a straightforward manner… people will see through any effort to parrot slogans or broadcast a marketing message.”
Submitted by: Vicky Ngeth, SMBP Student University of Waterloo.
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