Can Social Media Marketing bring Brands closer to Consumers?

Summary

Social media marketing has changed how brands interact with consumers and have opened a close window which brings consumers much closer to the brand.  A good customer friendly and well-designed website is essential for social media marketing to begin. The issues of maintaining a good brand reputation are also critical in the internet world. Social media marketing for financial institutions is quite different with restrictions imposed by regulatory institutions on the data which can be shared on social media. The future of social media marketing shall see integration with mobile technologies, thus bringing brands closer to consumers.

Introduction

     Traditional marketing has always been a one-way communication where customers receive information about products. The Internet has been considered as a vital advertising and direct marketing channel with the potential to revolutionize the branding of products and services(Argyriou, Kitchen, & Melewar, 2006). However, social media marketing has just changed the whole scenario completely with a “conversation” element added to all marketing communications to the customers and thus providing a unique customer engagement platform.

     Social media marketing has many advantages for businesses such as brand building, creating a buzz on the launch of a new product, managing marketing campaigns, and customer service too. Business brands such as Bank of America, Citibank, and Airtel are already using their social media channels on Twitter and Facebook for customer service.

Getting ready for social media

     Before you can begin marketing your brand on social media, you need to ensure that you have a unique corporate identity on the web represented by a corporate website. The world’s greatest brands are now online with established corporate websites. The corporate brand entity can be effectively managed through a corporate website platform.  The main objectives of websites are to promote the corporate and brand image in the most effective manner (Ducoffe, 1996). You need to keep a few things in mind to host a user-friendly corporate website. You need to get your graphics right with a convenient navigational design for online visitors and include interesting content that prospective consumers shall enjoy reading.

   The businesses are increasingly integrating their social media entities on their corporate websites so that users can connect with the brand through popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook fan pages, and Google plus pages.  Many researchers have examined the relation of website interactivity as a critical factor and a measure of website effectiveness (Argyriou, Kitchen, & Melewar, 2006).

     In addition to an attractive website design, engaging content, and a feedback channel, a reduced website loading time and good SEO[1] are also essential to ensure the brand is searchable on the web.

     The art of effective communication through social media can bring you closer to your customers. Every one in three consumers are discovering newly launched brands through social media networks which is a direct indicator of the important role brand awareness and reputation can play in the social consumer life cycle (Slabaugh, 2013).

Social Media Trends

     It is interesting to study social media trends for the past twelve months to understand the possible impact of an effective social media strategy for your brand. It is interesting to note that a desktop user spends as much as 6.35 hours on Facebook in a month which is much higher than Google and Yahoo (almost double than Google and triple than yahoo) (Slabaugh, 2013).

About 70% of marketers feel that content marketing has ignited the level of brand awareness among customers.  According to market research company Nielson, 65% of marketers have confirmed an increase in social media marketing budget in their marketing plans for 2013. According to 52% of corporate brands, social media leads to brand engagement and customer relationship building over email and corporate websites. Marketers are thus encouraging the increased use of social media for brand marketing (Slabaugh, 2013).

     Social media has empowered modern techno-savvy consumers with a powerful medium to voice their opinion on the brand experience. When the customer feedback is made on the brand’s social media profile page (such as a Facebook fan page or Google Plus profile page or as a tweet mentioning the brand’s official Twitter handle), direct communication is initiated which provides the corporate identity an opportunity to communicate and address the needs of the customer directly.

     Hashtags initiated by social media player Twitter are now also available on other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Many hashtags start trending on Twitter as they are shared by millions of users in their tweets. Chrpify Company has come up with a unique concept of #ActionTags which allows online users to buy products, post on social media campaigns, and advertisements. The consumers can use the activated hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. More than 300,000 social media enthusiasts have successfully used action hashtag service to buy or learn about products from leading brands such as Adidas and Lenovo (Hashtag Staff, 2014).

Reputation Management

  There have been incidents that highlight the power of social media and how corporate reputation is at stake if you don’t get your social CRM (Customer Relationship Management) right. Various research studies based on the potential of websites for reputation building have indicated that poorly developed websites can destroy corporate e reputation (Chun & Davies, 2001). Various structural factors such as website complexity, animation, and website features may have positive and negative effects on the attitude of customers towards the website (Coyle & Thorson, 2001). It is important that your customer feels good about your company and admires and respects your company.  Corporate identity is translated into a corporate image and later corporate reputation through various corporate communications (Dowling, 2001).

     Let us examine a few case studies highlighting the importance of effective corporate reputation management. Bank of America had made an announcement asking customers to pay a fee of $5 per month over the usage of their debit cards. As many as 3000,000 and more people signed on an online petition which recommended cancelation of the fee (Washington Post). Nearly 21,000 bank customers pledged that they would close their accounts with the bank and anger was expressed by consumers on leading social media networks. Ultimately, Bank of America had to reverse its decision of charging the fee (Davidson, 2012).

     Social media reputation management is of critical importance to maintain favourability for the brand.  You just cannot afford to fail in communicating effectively with your customers on social media networks. The company Netflix decided to announce a change in services and charges for its customers. The customers became frustrated with the move as they did not get much information and expressed their anger explicitly on social media. The company failed to communicate the reason for changes and what the changes were to its customers (Davidson, 2011).

     It is important to keep a few tips in mind to get it all right in social media for your brand reputation and satisfaction. You just cannot afford to ignore the importance of effective reputation management on the internet as it is quite easy for your brand’s reputation to be damaged on the web.

Customer Engagement

     Customers are looking forward to brands that engage with them. The brand must not remain silent on a customer comment on a social media network and should prepare a polite reply to the comment and go a step further in engaging in an offline communication with the customers. Nearly 25% of the consumers who complain about the brand products or services on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook expect a response from the brand in question within an hour (American Express Forum).

     The more loyal customers a brand has, the more repeat business it shall get. Customer satisfaction is a crucial factor for increased brand loyalty and enhanced brand popularity.     Brands tend to implement various promotion strategies for enhanced brand visibility on the web. Running contests on social media platforms is a frequent and faster technique to connect with new customers on social media channels. Social media enhances the reach of the brand to many more customers. Let us have a look at a few examples where brands have utilized the power of social media platforms through contests and promotions. The popular show “Live with Kelly and Michael” received as many as 17,000 entries for its photo contest on social media. The Indian mobile brand Tata Docomo has been quite a success story in social media by connecting through young customers (who are the brand’s target audience) on Facebook and Twitter contests such as “Do the new.” But it is very important to focus on the services offered by a brand when executing a social media promotion strategy such as contests so that the impact of the activity is long-lasting. Catalana Occidente Company decided to offer iPhone terminals as a prize to winners of the contest intended to promote insurance services. The Facebook page for the brand was full of activity during the contest period with a heavy influx of participants and user engagement but was drastically reduced when the contest was over. The company then revised its strategy for future contests and focused its efforts on attracting customers who were genuinely interested in buying insurance services.

Social media for financial institutions

     Social media marketing for financial institutions is quite different from the retail and other businesses since limited information can be shared on social media platforms since there is high regulation in the financial services industry. Banks are under continuous scanning by financial regulators which advise the bank on how customer data should be protected and what content can be shared on official social media channels of the bank on Twitter and Facebook.

     Banks are investing in social CRM and social marketing techniques to connect with customers. Content marketing makes a difference in social media marketing for the finance industry. Companies such as Citibank are using social media to enhance their brand presence as they engage with their Facebook fans on general topics such as sports rather than discussing banking stuff. Deutscher Sparkassen und Giroverband (DSGV) was successful in retaining more than 150,000 customers through its Facebook fan page by allowing users to provide feedback on bank services and file complaints on their Facebook page and addressing their problems. The effective management of corporate identity is critically important in the banking sector as there are difficulties in differentiating products of various organizations (Wilkinson & Balme, 1996).

     Consumers consider feedback and ratings from others who have used the product important before buying or trying the product. The way Trip advisor has emerged as a trusted resource for travel products, “My bank tracker” has come up as a unique online portal for banking services reviews and has more than 5,000 postings for reviews of various banks by customers (Juan & Kaganer, 2012).

     Social media CRM holds more importance for players in the financial services segment than social media marketing as it is important to establish trust for the brand in the minds of customers. New and innovative business models have emerged in the financial sector with the arrival of social media. Some of them include P2P (Person to person) micropayments by VISA play click and community banking by Fidor Bank (Juan & Kaganer, 2012).

Conclusion

     The future of social media marketing shall see mobile marketing integration. Many brands have already started launching mobile apps for various platforms such as android, iPhone, and blackberry.

The tools gifted by social media platforms need to be effectively utilized by the brand maintaining a balance between push strategies and being open to consumer feedback. Brands must ensure that their corporate websites deploy the best in terms of graphic designs and navigation with contact points such as social media icons to connect with the customers. Communication and engagement is the key to a successful e-branding.


[1] . SEO refers to search engine optimization techniques to enhance a website’s visibility in search engines.

References

  1. Argyriou, E., Kitchen, P. J., & Melewar, T. C. (2006). The relationship between corporate websites and brand equity. A conceptual framework and research agenda. International Journal of Market Research , 575-599.
  2. Chun, R., & Davies, G. (2001). E-reputation: the role of mission and vision statements in positioning strategy. Journal of Brand Management , 8 (Spring), 315–333.
  3. Coyle, J., & Thorson, E. (2001). The effects of progressive levels of interactivity and vividness in web marketing sites. Journal of Advertising , 65–77.
  4. Davidson A. (XYZ, 2011) The emergence of social consumers and their impact on brands. Retrieved from: http://www.wearehathway.com/blog/born-digital/the-emergence-of-social-consumers-and-their-impact-on-brands
  5. Dowling, G. (2001). Creating Corporate Reputations: Identity, Image and Performance. London: Oxford University Press.
  6. Ducoffe, R. (1996). Advertising value and advertising on the web. Journal ofAdvertising Research , 15 (Fall), 21–35.
  7. Hashtag Staff (10 March, 2014) #ActionTags Bring Consumers Closer To Brands. Retrieved from: http://www.hashtags.org/business/brands/actiontags-bring-consumers-closer-to-brands/
  8. Slabaugh J. (12 October, 2013) The Evolving Dynamics of Social for Brands Retrieved from: http://www.spredfast.com/blog/2013/12/10/the-evolving-dynamics-of-social-for-brands/
  9. Slabaugh  J.(19 December, 2013) 14 Stats to Inform Your 2014 Social Marketing Strategy. Retrieved from: http://socialmediatoday.com/jordanv/2012901/14-stats-inform-your-2014-social-marketing-strategy
  10. Juan, A. V., & Kaganer, E. (2012). Impact of Social Media on the Financial Services Sector. GFT.
  11. Wilkinson, A., & Balme, J. T. (1996). Corporate and generic identities: lessons from the Co-operative bank. International Journal of Bank Marketing , Vol. 14 No. 4, 22-35.


Categories: Marketing, Social Media Marketing

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