Sometimes we forget that social media marketing is ALL about relationships — that social networks are simply a tool for building relationships with customers and prospects. It’s not about attracting huge numbers of fans/ followers (in fact a few highly engaged fans are MUCH more important than hordes of disenfranchised fans). It’s not about creating content; it’s not about SEO; it’s not about design or graphics or widgets. It’s about relationships. The rest are tools for building and supporting these relationships.
Arm’s-Length Transactions Versus Relationships
In marketing, we talk about a continuum from transactions to relationships. Transactions are one-time exchanges and the classic example is the service station were you buy gas in a town you’ll never visit again. Relationships can be fairly fleeting, like the “relationship” you have with your bank teller or extended relationships that may take on the characteristics of a true friendship. For instance, you might have a relationship with your hairstylist that looks more like a friendship. You might even invite them to your wedding or other social events.
Relationships with customers and prospects may translate into increased sales in the long-run.
- Customers who have relationships spread the word about your business, which drives others to buy from you.
- Customers who have relationships trust the brand and are more loyal — which translates to buying more from the organization.
- Customers who have a relationship defend you when others criticize you or your brand.
- Customers who have a relationship may act as partial employees to help other customers understand your products and use them effectively.
This makes relationships look better. But, that’s not always the case because developing relationships requires time, money, and effort. So, what kind of exchange should you shoot for? That depends !
What are your goals?
Some people think you can only build relationships if you’re in certain markets. Building relationships is expensive and may not be the most effective way to reach organizational goals. And every organization plans to make money, so wasting time and other resources building relationships that don’t translate into dollars is ridiculous.
If you’re a gas station along a busy highway or off the interstate, spending resources on social media marketing to build a relationship probably doesn’t make sense. Instead, focus on billboard advertising and foursquare to maximize exposure for the business. Also, look at updating prices frequently on tools like Gasbuddy that drivers use to find the cheapest gas. However, a gas station in a neighborhood might want to build relationships if they also offer a service area. That way, when consumers need the more profitable services to repair their vehicle, you’re likely to be considered.
Lesson 1 – Build relationships with customers when there’s potential to increase your LONG TERM profitability through these relationships.
What do customers/ prospects want?
While it’s true that not everyone wants a relationship with their brand, people want relationships and brands in ANY market can chose this market strategy.
I mean, look at Dove. Is there another category that seems less likely to build relationships with customers. Of course, customers didn’t build relationships with soap, they built relationships with women of all shapes and colors as promoted in the campaign for real women put together by Dove.
Marketing to baby boomers through social media is considered stupid by some who content baby boomers don’t use social media. All you have to do is look at metrics for AARP to see the effectiveness of social media marketing to this group. Baby boomers are a rapidly increasing group of social network users, plus their kids and grandkids are active users of social networks.
Lesson 2 – If implemented effectively, you can build relationships with people regardless of your product or target market
How successful are you with other marketing initiatives?
How’s your quality? Your customer service? Your interactions with customers offline?
If the rest of your marketing efforts stink, efforts to build a relationship will backfire, creating more fodder for the press and problems for front-line employees. Creating fanpages and other social media channels only act to give customers another avenue to complain and a way to leverage individual customer complaints against the company.
Lesson 3 – if the rest of your marketing stinks, building relationships with customers will backfire creating more negative sentiment.