Identify your customers’ needs
Any company that wants to interact with its customers is apt to consider including social media in its communications plan. The first step is to determine the purpose of having a Twitter account, Facebook page or corporate blog. This involves posing the question: “What customer needs would we like to address through our online presence?”
Step away from technology for a minute
You will have to identify which of your customers’ needs relating to your products or services can only be addressed through an online presence. This step must come before you examine the different technical tools available on the market and before creating a blog. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a complete arsenal of social media tools, but very little engagement among customers (current or potential). In other words, your online efforts are sure to elicit little or no response if you fail to plan in advance and to take into consideration the needs of your customers.
Listen to your customers and determine their habits
An easy way to find out what your customers need is simply to listen to what they are saying – whether it’s on social media, to your sales reps or customer service team, or in response to your customer satisfaction questionnaires. There’s no reason to believe that your customers suddenly become different when they use the Internet. Thus, it’s important to listen carefully to what they have to say, both on and off the Web. This will give you a broad view of their needs.
For example, let’s say that your customers use the Internet to read consumer reports about your products. What should you conclude from this? Logically, it suggests that your customers don’t rely solely on the information provided on your website or on other media. You will have to take this aspect into consideration when devising your communications plan. In this case, it’s important for you to know that this is a real need expressed by your customers (potential or current) and not just a more generalized fact (that product reviews are available online).
Find something to talk about other than sale events
On the one hand, it’s essential that your products or services offer something special compared to the competition. But on the other hand, it’s just as important that you refrain from using social media for purely promotional purposes. Instead, leave promotional advertising for unidirectional media, such as billboards, radio, TV, web banners, email blasts or Google AdWords. Having listened to your customers’ needs, you should be able to determine which subjects have the greatest potential for engaging customers in conversation or interaction, whether it is amongst themselves or with you.
These subjects of conversation or interaction will become new, value-added services related to your current product/service offering, as they will generate unique content or tools that respond to your customers’ needs.