When you begin crafting your social media strategy your first instinct may be to start with the sale…. How do you drive a consumer to buy your product? Focusing on the sale is typically the wrong answer (not that sales don’t matter).
The brand cycle doesn’t typically start with purchase. As you can see below, it starts with Awareness and ends with Loyalty. Your social media strategy needs to focus the the relevant portions of the consumer experience and create a strong connection (also know as brand equity).
The brand purchase cycle starts with awareness (I know about your product) then Consideration (I am considering purchasing your product) then Preference (I actually prefer your product over the alternatives) then Experience (I bought or consumed your product and what was my experience like) then Loyalty (will I do it again?).
Your instinct may be to focus on the purchase – how are we driving sales. It is important to remember that the actual sale may not be the best part of the sales cycle to focus on.
There are effective social media strategies for each stage of the brand cycle.
Awareness Strategies – Consider a social media strategy where you post content that is generally of interest to your target audience. Grab their attention by posting relevant things related to your product that they actually care about. Trying to sell expensive cooking oil? Talk about how to cook. Trying to sell laundry detergent? Provide great stain removal tips. Listen to your audience, learn what they are interested in and start to talk about the things that they are interested in.
Consideration – They know who you are, but are they really considering you? Look for people who mention your brand and answer their questions. Actively seek out people referencing your category or buyers – they know who you are but do they seriously consider you. Provide information to make sure that your brand is in the consideration set. Focus on search rankings and make sure that your site is optimized to answer questions.
Preference – Using social media to build preference can work well when done correctly. You can build preference by showing that you truly care about your audience and your brand and are committed. Brands that effectively build preference using social media focus on building real relationships. Be nice. Show that you care to potential purchasers. Have flexible policies. Build preference by focusing on building positive feelings about your brand. After a social media interaction they should “like you” or “think that you are cool/hip”, etc, based on your brand equity.
Experience – Social media strategies focused on the experience portion can focus on things like customer service or support and feedback. When focusing on experience you should leverage social media to make the customer experience when using your product better. Customer service via social media can be a great tool in this.
Loyalty – The final stage is loyalty. Social media is a great tool to build loyalty. You can use fan pages and twitter to provide specific offers/incentives/discounts to drive loyalty among existing customers. It is typically easier to drive more sales from existing customers vs. acquiring new ones. Focus on showing your customers that you REALLY care (this can also drive word of mouth and build new customers). Find ways to use social media to *really* give your customers something special. It doesn’t have to be a financial incentive either – it can be insider information or access to a members club.
Your strategy doesn’t have to focus on just one – it can focus on more than one. They key is to use social media to build a great brand experience (and this will drive sales over time). This strategy takes great content and can take longer, but in the end, this is where the real payout in social media is.
The key is to focus your social media strategy on the right part of the brand building cycle vs. blindly trying to drive sales.