Along for the Ride: Social Conversations on the Customer Journey

Startup marketers can get so caught up in the process of creating and sharing branded content to feed the social media machine that they sometimes forget about having real, spontaneous conversations with buyers.

A brand exists in the heart of the buyer, and the key to that heart is a personal connection. Buyers are influenced by emotional factors like trust, confidence, and affinity for brands.

These emotions don’t develop through one-way communication. Incessant, outbound messages can backfire, leaving buyers feeling under-appreciated and overwhelmed.

Compelling conversations are essential to the decision process. From the moment a prospect starts researching solutions to post-purchase affirmation that their decision was sound, buyers are talking and using social media to do it. They converse with each other, with their peers, with your company, your competitors, analysts, and others.

Are you engaging, or simply focused on promotional chatter?

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Different Content for Different Stages of the Funnel

As you map your customer journey, look for opportunities to connect with buyers by having a relevant dialog at each decision point. Use social tools to listen, respond, and proactively approach buyers based on where they are in their travels.

Design your content strategy to align with steps along the customer journey, for example:

  • Informational blog posts can help buyers with preliminary research,
  • Video testimonials build credibility,
  • Webinars can differentiate your business and position it as a topical authority.

Prioritize your efforts. You cannot be everywhere but you need to pick social media platforms where your audience is most active. Once you know which social media channels you want to use, craft your posts to support the wide variety of formats you’ve developed. You can promote a free download, invite people to a webinar, and share snippets of content as a teaser.

All of these posts need to be relevant and add value. Be careful not to cross the line into overly promotional messages or you will lose your audience. Adding value means providing quotes, stats, and other items of interest right in your post.

Invite conversation and feedback. Ask employees, partners, customers, and others to share your information if they find it useful. Reach out directly via social channels to people you know who will appreciate great content.

Don’t forget to brand your social media content well without over-selling your presence. You need to remind your customers of your brand again and again, as they will need at least 5-7 touchpoints with your business across the web to finally remember you. Building brand recognition should be one of the main goals of social media marketing.

As buyers explore alternatives online, they’ll use social channels to seek out opinions from people they respect. They’ll join active dialogs in online forums like LinkedIn Groups, Twitter Chats, and Reddit threads. You need to be listening to those conversations and engage when it makes sense. 

Social media listening should be part of your marketing strategy and not just for engaging. This is a huge source of insights into how your target audience is discussing your products. Smart technology like IVR and chatbots should be taught to react to common conversations and provide helpful guidelines.

These conversations continue throughout the purchase process and even post-purchase as buyers become recommenders and brand advocates.

Foster a Community

Use your social media conversations to create a thriving community around your brand. As the community grows, members will help you with peer-to-peer interactions that support your brand position and move others along the decision journey.

When new members arrive, they’ll be welcomed not just by your formal communications, but by the warmth of a community that transfers trust and credibility to your brand.

You can foster these interactions by:

  • Asking members of your social network to share their best practices, success stories, and case studies about your brand.
  • Recording video featuring customers at various stages of the customer journey, and showcasing how you helped them through.
  • Creating a customer-only newsletter to keep them engaged and remind them of your brand over and over again.
  • Using social media to introduce your customers and prospects to private or invitation-only communities where they can share freely. You can use third-party platforms (like private groups on Linkedin or Facebook) or better yet set up a membership site on your own domain.
  • Promoting customers on social media and highlighting their use of your products or services.

While spreading out to more channels and methods is always a good idea for marketing diversification is always a good idea, keeping it consolidated is also essential to keep things under control. Solutions like Beacons ai and Stan Store can help you manage your channels and link all of them from a single page.

Include Your Whole Company

To maximize the impact of social media at every step of your customer journey, don’t limit your efforts to just the social media team. Instead, involve employees from a variety of customer-facing roles.

Sales, marketing, product managers, and service staff should all understand what messaging works best for each phase. Teach employees how to embed these messages in their social conversations, and encourage them to do so as they connect with prospects.

Public representatives of your company should also be part of your social media marketing. Don’t forget: People connect to people, so personal brands behind your business may build a following faster and easier than your official business pages.

Encourage your executives to be active on social media, reinforcing your brand’s message and educating your target audience on how your company can help solve their problems. Rand Fishkin is a great example of a leader who uses his personal brand to promote a business he co-founded. Hari Ravichandra is another startup founder who constantly adds context to his product and raises awareness about the problems his business is solving.

These are great examples of leaders who utilize social media platforms to promote their companies and engage with the target audience.

Social media is an excellent tool to help buyers find their way, giving you insight and feedback through observation (social listening) as well as direct engagement. Once your team is trained on how social fits into the customer journey, don’t hesitate to be your buyer’s guide.

Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay

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