Does Social Media Engagement for Business Translate to Brand Sales? Yes!

Social Media can be a powerful way for business professionals to increase their brand awareness and sales.

Excellent post by social media thought leader Brian Solis on how, for business, social media engagement on sites like Facebook and Twitter is translating into sales. New research reveals that over 60% of Facebook users and a whopping 79% of Twitter users are more likely to recommend a brand since becoming a fan/follower on these social networks.

Solis goes on to point out that actively and thoughtfully engaging consumers in social media is fast becoming a base expectation. But, brands beware! Reread the first part of the lead sentence in this paragraph again…the part about actively and THOUGHTFULLY engaging.

It never fails to amaze me when I find big brands using social media channels as yet another avenue for interruption or push messaging. You see this all the time. Some brands think it’s still all about them. This is the quickest path to irrelevance and having consumers dismiss you as hopelessly out of touch. This channel is NOT about what you have to say. It’s about LISTENING and joining in the CONVERSATION and one of the best ways to do this is with relevant content.

Social media for business can be a tremendous platform for developing and employing a new set of relationship skills and a distribution vehicle to serve up content that seeks to first provide a value to their audiences. This skill set doesn’t come naturally to brand marketers who have spent years of their careers and millions of dollars perfecting their ability to TALK AT people through ads, direct mail,  press releases and the like, delivered via traditional media channels. This is a comfortable and easy-to-manage process, for sure. Unfortunately, it’s a marketing method sharply in decline and no wonder: There’s very little consumer value delivered in this legacy advertising/pr, interruption-based approach.

The mantra of the internet in the first part of this decade was: if you’re not on Google, you don’t exist.

The mantra going forward is: if you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, you don’t exist.

This isn’t just the opinion of young people, according to the research Solis references.

“It shows they are not really with it or in tune with the new ways to communicate with customers.” Female 18-24.

“If they’re not on Facebook or Twitter, then they aren’t in touch with the…people.” Female 55-59

I know this to be the case from my own experience. I own two Lexus cars. I love them. But, there’s one problem…their keys suck! They have some kind of manufacturing defect in the plastic of the key fob and they become very brittle and break over the course of normal use. Now, aside from the fact that a cheap, crappy key is a big disconnect with a luxury brand experience, there are two other major irritations that go with this problem:

1) When the key fobs break, the transponder often falls out. Without the transponder, you can’t open the doors remotely and in certain cases may not even be able to start the car.

2) Replacement keys cost a ridiculous $200 a piece.

Least you think I’m petty and needlessly using the blog to harp on a personal matter…this has happened to three of our four main keys. Do you think Lexus covers this under warranty? Ah, no.

The last straw came a couple weeks ago when the third key broke as my wife was engaging in the extremely abusive behavior of removing it from her purse. I decided to see if Lexus was even listening on social media so I tweeted about the issue and got no response. So, I then posted it on Facebook…where I also got no response. In a Twitter search, I found lots of posts from Lexus about their new sexy new sports car…along with my tweet gripping about the key. In a Google search, I also found lots of links to people complaining about Lexus key fobs breaking. Either Lexus is not listening or they don’t care. And, you know what…I’m not so sure I care that much about $50,000 cars with cheap, crappy keys. After all, a $50,000 that won’t start because of it’s crappy key is the definition of useless. And infuriating.

This is obviously a customer service issue and for business owners, social media is a great, real time lab for listening to customer complaints and issues and fixing them. Just look at what Comcast has done using Twitter to improve it’s customer service experience. If nothing else, responding to complaints on social networks gives brands the opportunity to not only solve problems but let everyone know they’re doing so. In the process, they can turn the complaints into compliments. This clearly reflects positively on the brand and everyone can know about it…something that doesn’t happen in a call center interaction.

But, to be relevant on Facebook and Twitter, brands need to go beyond using it to resolve customers service issue.  A brand needs more than a social media presence for their business. Brands should be surprising and delighting potential customers and customers with content that seeks to answer their questions and need for information first…and  you can gently and organically integrate your brand into this content when and where it’s credible and makes sense. By taking this approach, a brand earns the right to be heard.

We call this approach Branded Conversations…listening first, then providing relevant content that answers customers questions and need for information. We think it’s a new marketing practice whose time has come.