Social Media Marketing: Let’s Be Friends!

Social media platforms offer new channels of modern marketing where businesses can connect with their customers in a way that wasn’t possible 10 years ago. This wonderful new medium has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities, and along with the capabilities of digital analytics, has created a wonderland in which marketers can play. As a key part of inbound and content marketing, it is important for companies to work to utilize this medium to the best of their abilities. As such, this vast world of possibilities can include the possibility of loss. That is why there is a lot of sponsored content that provides instruction for companies on how to optimize their use of social media to attract and maintain customers.

A Simple Perspective

After absorbing what felt like was a lot of this informational content about how to create a phenomenal social media strategy, I wanted to look at the idea of social media marketing in a different way—a way that is simple, that anyone can understand, and that still provides value to someone looking to implement a social media strategy. As I began to think about the general purpose of social media (even though it has now evolved to serve many), I realized that at its core, social media is about connecting—connecting with people and with friends. Then, I thought about the concept of brand personality and that’s when I considered social media marketing from this angle:

Think of a brand as a person. If that brand were a person, what would they tweet about on twitter? What would they post on their Facebook page? As a person, the goal of that brand should be to create relationships with people. It should strive to be a friend to its customers. Why is this important? Because people want to support their friends, people are loyal to their friends, and people care for their friends. But in order to be a friend, a brand needs to earn peoples friendship by creating value for them. Whether it be informative value, entertainment value, or both, and how that value is communicated, depends entirely on who that brand is and what is consistent with that brand’s personality.

Looking at it from this perspective helped me to understand how cool social media truly is for the marketing sphere and how it has the potential to fundamentally alter customer perceptions about the companies that they come in contact with. Companies no longer need to be lofty impersonal entities that consumers are apprehensive of, they can be personal, familiar, “friends”. This ability to create lasting relationships with customers is invaluable because it boosts brand equity, brand preference, and customer loyalty, ultimately leading to sustained mutual benefit for both the company and the consumer.

Some Great “Friends”

There are plenty of examples out there of social media campaigns that have gone viral and have been extremely successful, but instead of looking at an example of a great campaign, I’m interested in looking at companies that have a consistent and innovative social media strategy. Below are two examples of companies that use social media marketing effectively.

Because I mentioned this company in my post about inbound marketing I won’t discuss them in-depth here, but I had to give Starbucks a shout-out again for their stellar use of social media to cultivate relationships with customers and perpetuate customer interest in the brand. An article published on OnlineMBAPage.com ranked Starbucks at #2 among the top 50 most social media friendly fortune 500 companies. They have a massive amount of followers across at least 7 different social media platforms and use each of these platforms to optimize customer exposure to the brand, while attempting to reach out to customers in a fun and personal way. They are a perfect example of how to be a friend that provides value to customers.

Another company that stood out to me in its effective use of social media, was the Ford Motor Company. Some of you may be thinking, of all of the companies that you could have chosen, why Ford? I chose Ford because they genuinely surprised me. The position that their brand occupies in my mind is not the most positive, but after looking into their use of social media marketing, I now have a lot more respect for the company—which is exactly what they want! So, they must be doing something right! In fact, they are ranked ninth among the top 50 most social media friendly fortune 500 companies.

I found myself quickly getting lost in their social media content. I mean, seriously, check out their Tumblr site and their Facebook page! I must say that their Ford Mustang speed dating prank is pretty darn funny. Needless to say, their social media success seems to be, in part, driven by the engaging, fun, and creative content that they publish.

Another part of this success is likely due to the fact that the company is very responsive and engaging whenever people post, comment, or tweet them. They employ a team of social media agents  and a customized search engine tool to respond to customer questions, comments, and concerns, as well as to involve customers in conversation. An example of this customer care, would be when when a customer had a question about his 2011 Ford Explorer and posted about the issue on Ford’s Facebook page, he received a swift response from the company answering his question. It’s reactiveness and dedication like this that allows Ford to be a leader in social media marketing success. Despite its size as a fortune 500 company, Ford uses social media to connect with customers effectively in personal, engaging, and creative ways.

If there are two things that we can learn from Ford’s success with social media marketing, it’s that you need to create valuable content for your customers and frequently engage with them on a personal, individual level. That’s what makes Ford a good corporate friend.

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