Who is your social customer?

By Srinivas Chari|3rd Apr 2013
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Note: This is the fourth article in the 7 part series on social media contributed by Xerago. First article here, second here, and the third here.

A lot of businesses focus solely on the creation of accounts on social media websites. Once the accounts are created, the initial enthusiasm soon transforms to confusion and lack of clarity in terms of direction. This is because a lot of us don’t think of taking a minute to consider what exactly we’re going to do with these social media accounts to leverage our marketing efforts.

One primary question we fail to think about is who our social customers are likely to be and how we can align content to suit their requirements. Before we get to the act of identifying who our social customers are, we must understand who a social customer is.

A social customer is essentially someone who generates discussions or conversations about your products/services. These conversations don’t necessarily have to be online. In fact, brand advocates are known to take conversations offline, thus improving awareness and recall. These conversations, therefore, are spread across channels as well as mediums.

Social customers are known to have dynamic behavioral patterns that change in real-time and their circle of influence is not restricted to their respective friends and followers. These individuals have very unique preferences. They completely abhor unsolicited information and consume only the information that they feel is relevant to them. What’s more, the information is required to be relevant to them at a particular point of time. Needless to say one-way communication methods such as mass advertisements make no impact on them. The ideal way for brands to engage with social customers is through conversations.

Individuals who have made a purchase and interact with your brand online can evolve into different categories of social customers, according to MediaBistro:

  • Those who express negative reviews
  • Those who request assistance when encountering difficulty with the product/service
  • Those who cancel when encountering difficulty with the product/service
  • Those who suggest improvements to the brand to overcome the pain points
  • Those who recommend the product to others
  • Those who are satisfied and consider purchase in future

Based on the information pertaining to the traits of social customers, it is clear that for brands to gain the attention of and make an impact on these individuals, they must ensure that they are present on multiple channels, facilitating multiple touch points. It is believed that for a social customer to start believing in a particular message from a brand, they need to see or hear it around 3-5 times.

The influence of the social customer and his/her opinion is evident in the model of closed-loop value creation. According to Michael Brito, Senior VP at Edelman Digital, the process starts when the social customer creates value through conversations. The social brand then creates value by engaging with the social customer and actively listening. The social business, in turn, creates value by implementing internal changes after considering feedback from the social customers.

Brands need to keep in mind what really matters to social customers. Some questions to ponder to ensure value creation for social customers:

  • Are customers’ issues expressed/discussed on social media being resolved?
  • Can information/content be easily shared by customers?
  • Are faithful fans (or superfans) being rewarded for their contributions to the brand conversation?

Considering that every brand’s offering is unique, their target audiences and, therefore, social customer will vary. Accordingly, ways to identify social customers also need to be customized. For instance, if your organization sells athletic shoes, seeking athletes on specific online platforms needn’t be the only way to identify your social customer. You could also consider participants at fitness/weight loss-related discussion forums, target other sports-related forums (to cover individuals who cross-train), seek out high school /college going kids who are keenly involved in sports and so on.

Identifying and understanding your social customer is crucial to create effective communication that will engage and inform. This will also power positive social customer experiences.

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