When you begin crafting your social media strategy your first instinct may be to start with the sale…How do you drive a potential home buyer to buy your home on the market? Focusing on the sale (first) is typically the wrong answer.
The brand cycle doesn’t typically start with purchase. It starts with Awareness and ends with Loyalty. Your social media strategy needs to focus 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 agency) then Consideration (I am considering working with your agency) then Preference (I actually prefer your agency over the alternatives) then Experience (I worked with your agency and what was my experience like) then Loyalty (will I do it again/will I recommend to others?).
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.
In my experiences speaking about social media, this concept is described in much more depth but here is an overview of some key strategies to implement the branding cycle for your agency.
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 services that they actually care about. Trying to sell in a specific area of town? Talk about special events that go on there. Trying to sell office space? Talk about the convenience to downtown or local restaurants. Listen to your audience, learn what they are interested in and start to talk about the things that they are interested in.
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.
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 are committed to serving them. Brands that effectively build preference using social media focus on building real relationships. Be nice. Show potential homebuyers that you care. 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.
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 increase the value of the customer’s experience. Customer service via social media can be a great tool in this.
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. 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 will be in social media. The key is to focus your social media strategy on the right part of the brand building cycle vs. blindly trying to drive sales for your agency.