There was a time when pretty much all marketing and sales generation was a one-way model. Not anymore. A business that wants to succeed knows that it has to engage, and promote the two-way relationship that social media has turbocharged.
Social media is all about community — a multi-component, multi-node framework in which customers can participate and even direct the conversation. The trick with commerce is being able to use that community to improve the lead quality and thereby increase sales.
We’ll look at how to do this. But before that, let’s be sure what we’re talking about.
What is social media community management?
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So, social media is built around, and builds, networked relationships. Where it thrives is where communication goes back and forth within a group, with ideas generating other ideas, exchanges giving birth to further exchanges, etc.
That’s not to say that other ways of marketing don’t still work well with the right approach. For instance, with the right insurance auto dialer, an outgoing insurance caller can hit a lot of leads, with high levels of success.
However, social media communities are more about multi-way conversations. The problem though (as any teacher will tell you) is that despite how great group discussions are, there has to be an element of leadership else these discussions deteriorate into an unstructured meander of chaos.
It doesn’t have to be draconian. It doesn’t have to be overly prescriptive. But it does need to exhibit the characteristics that we find in social media community management. These revolve around keeping the conversation on track.
It’s tempting to think of social media communities spontaneously coming up with their own topics, talking about whatever might seem important or pressing at the time. This kind of subject generation may well be the case with friend-group social media communities.
However, when it comes to a social media community that has been formed by a commercial body, the conversation will be a post sent out by the business at the centre of the group. And for truly effective posting, there has to be an element of planning.
In other words, posts shouldn’t appear on a whim. They should issue as part of a planned-out timetable, taking into account product releases, business goals, and events in society as a whole.
Great planning requires a firm idea about company direction, organizational timetable, and great calendar management.
It also requires an awareness of the optimal time for posting using specific platforms. For instance, there are definite rules around when to post on Facebook for maximum effect.
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Not all community members are going to say things we all agree with. A social media community manager has to be able to accommodate a raft of different perspectives while keeping the overall conversation true to company goals.
No, it’s not always easy. It requires the ability to attend to what somebody’s saying, and gently nudge them in the desired direction. This is the kind of thing that salespeople have been doing for millenia.
Social media community exchanges can be messy, just like that school group we mentioned. They can end up a little wayward and full of extraneous matter. This can mean that the fundamental business of the community can become obscured or even contradicted if we’re not careful.
It’s the community manager’s job to see to these weeds and keep things tidy. So, irrelevant posts and links can be removed, and conversations can shift back on course.
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When messages from community members come in, it’s the community manager’s job to engage with them. That way, a healthy exchange can be set up. So, whatever the nature of the message, from queries about a product, to comments on an outgoing post, it’s down to the community manager to deal with the incoming message promptly and politely.
Talking of which, it’s imperative that community managers use a little personality in their replies — and avoid plagiarism, like the plague.
People can smell a chatbot from a long way off. Although bots have their uses in many areas of life and commerce, there’s nothing quite like the human touch in social media community management. It shows that the business takes seriously any conversations it has with its clients.
So, now we know exactly what we mean by social media community management. How can we use this area to improve lead quality? There are several avenues well worth trying, so let’s get stuck in.
Hosting an event
By getting an event together, you can generate leads because attendees usually have to submit their details to get on the list.
Once you’ve got their data, you can then work on making them the best quality leads by wowing them with the event, whether it be a showpiece, a conference, or webinar. It might be all about how your auto dialer software excels where others struggle. Or it could be about an exciting new range of footwear you’re bringing out.
Whatever it’s all about, the event will need a hook. This could mean an event with the best entertainment value — nothing engages like a great experience. Or, it could mean an event that showcases the products you’re trying to push in an irresistibly impressive fashion.
It could even be all about who you team up with in the event. As we’ll see below, online personalities such as influencers can have a huge impact on lead generation.
The really important thing about events is that attendees are all interested in some aspect of what you’re talking about. So they form a social media community right there.
Here’s a great example from somebody who does a lot of events.
Screenshot taken from Facebook
Don’t forget to post on social media all the time that the event is ongoing, so that you can give it maximum exposure and generate maximum interest. And, of course, an event like this can be the happening that keeps on happening. There’s nothing to stop you directing people to a recording of your event in return for their email address.
Using lead generation ads
Sometimes it pays to be direct. Advertising is as old as the hills, but you can be smart with it. For instance, if you use lead-gen ads with your social media, you can have a really streamlined process that makes the most of your community.
A social media lead-gen ad will work with your social media platform rather than the usual route of directing a customer to your website. For example, posting a lead-gen ad on LinkedIn that enables prospective customers to auto-complete a form using their LinkedIn details, will be a much smoother lead generation method than the website routine.
The easier it is for a customer to enter their details, the better quality those details are likely to be. The weary customer can perhaps enter abbreviated or even erroneous information in their bid to progress to the next step in their relationship with you. By keeping things as slick and automated as possible, you stand a better chance of having good lead quality.
Social proof is mega-effective. In a world full of businesses competing to sell you products and services, it can be easy to dismiss most of their claims as empty selling tactics. However, if a fellow consumer tells you that a product’s worth buying, that can have real currency.
So, welcome testimonials and reviews, then promote them on your social media. Comment on the good ones, showing how delighted you are that the customer experience with, say, their new remote desktop for ipad, was so positive.
Don’t ignore the bad ones. Deal with these as a matter of priority, assuring the customer of your concern and seeking further details so you can address the matter. A poor review like this can be a golden opportunity for you to show how attuned your business is to all customer experiences.
Using testimonials and reviews to your advantage improves the quality of your leads. The potential customer who is able to see how well you treat existing customers is more likely to buy from you than one who doesn’t know the first thing about your business.
Teaming up with influencers can be a great way of enhancing lead quality. Influencers can carry extra weight with their recommendations, informing and persuading onlookers. The casual visitor can wish to sign up for more, giving your business an excellent lead.
More than this, though, influencers bring their own army of followers, who are likely to be great quality leads for your business.
Take this example on Instagram. Fiji Water involved an influencer partner in the shape of WeWoreWhat, the popular fashion blog written by Danielle Bernstein. Between the two of them they launched BodyWoreWhat, which was all about eight-minute workout videos showcasing fitness wear and hydration.
Screenshot from Instagram
The synergy between the two brands worked well and resulted in better quality leads, with both Fiji and WeWoreWhat fans encouraged to engage further.
You can really get the most out of a social media community by instituting a referral program. Using this, you urge your social media community members to recommend your products or services to a friend. In return for doing so, the community member receives a reward in the shape of a free gift or a discount on future purchases.
Why does this work so well? Because you’re leveraging the power of relationships. Your community members feel part of a privileged coterie of customers who you are inviting to be part of your business’ success. And you’re giving them the chance to earn a reward at the same time.
But then there’s the added bonus of the generation of a new lead — and not just any lead, either. What you’ll have is a quality lead who is more likely to buy from you because someone they know and trust is already a customer.
See this example from Freshly, using no fewer than five different social media platforms, plus email.
Image sourced from referralrock.com
Possibly the most important thing a social media community manager can do is to listen.
To listen is important in just about any profession. For instance, telephone agents adhering strictly to a healthcare call center script will still need to listen to the concerns of those making the calls. It’s in this way that a meaningful exchange can take place.
Moreover, incoming messages from customers big and small, near and far, passionate and casual, can be absolute gold dust when it comes to securing new quality leads.
There’s nothing worse than feeling ignored by a business — it’s the reason why many customers decide to withhold their custom. It can come in the form of not addressing the customer in marketing materials or ignoring customer service communications and feedback. Whenever a customer feels ignored, that customer is likely to become an ex-customer in pretty short order.
Take the wheel
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Just like when a business turns a bad review into a good opportunity, you can use conversations in your social media community to highlight what’s so great about your brand or product. If someone mentions a problem that they’ve had with a product of yours, research it and then get back to them. Tell them a way they can use a product feature to address that difficulty.
What if the worst comes to the worst and you can’t in all honesty promote a quality in the product that will take care of the customer’s need? That’s fine — just be candid. Say that you’re very grateful for the insight and are going to go back to product development with the issue.
The fact that you paid attention to the issues communicated in social media community interactions will play very well in the eyes of existing and potential customers. In this way, your responsivity will result in an improvement in lead quality.
Practicing good social listening is akin to the techniques you should be using in all manner of business activities, from product marketing to human capital management. What is human capital management? It’s an approach based on paying attention to individual development and employee experience.
How can you be sure of improving employee experience? By listening, of course. Our ears are our friends, so use them.
Social media communities are an incredible asset for a business. To have a collection of people who are interested in your output is a wonderful thing, especially given that you are able to reach them easily and directly using social media.
It makes sense to use this facility to enrich your leads, and we’ve shown you a number of ways to attempt this. It also makes sense to mix up these techniques – use a series of different approaches for maximum effect. And have some fun with it. Fun’s infectious, and that’s how enthusiasm turns viral.