Your company probably has a social media presence. But if you're not incorporating social media into your customer marketing strategy, you could be missing out.

After all, you've spent valuable time and money building your customer base, and you've also worked to amass a growing community of followers on your social media channels. But have you integrated those efforts in an effort to expand your customer base, keep current customers engaged, and increase profits?

Take the following three steps to help you make sure you do.

1. Develop a social media marketing plan

Without a plan, your social activity runs the risk of turning off customers instead of tuning them in, derailing corporate objectives, and tarnishing your company's reputation.

So, no matter where you are in the social moment, take time now to evaluate (or create) your strategy, keeping the following in mind:

Check your goals. Social efforts must support corporate and marketing goals, from big-picture aims (building brand awareness, boosting revenue) to short-term targets (generating event attendance, maximizing offer response).

Know your social customers. Chances are, not all of your customers are regular social media users. Find out who is, what channels they prefer, and what type of content they want to see from you in that space.

Develop your messaging. Make it relevant—and remember, it's about them, not you. Focus company-oriented content on customer benefits, and mix in heavy doses of information and entertainment. Strive for two-way interaction and dialogue—otherwise, it isn't really social.

Fill in your social calendar. An editorial calendar can help keep your social media messaging organized and ensure it integrates with corporate communications and marketing efforts.

Some ideas to fill in calendar blanks:

  • Support marketing campaigns or other company initiatives.
  • Tie to key holidays and special events.
  • Repurpose existing content into snack-size pieces with links to more details on your website.
  • Announce "breaking news." (Tip: Have a plan for handling bad news or negative press.)

Track metrics. Measurement is the only way you'll know whether you're meeting objectives. And it will give you valuable information for adjusting your strategy as needed.

The reality is, social media is an ever-changing marketing environment. The only sensible way to keep pace without losing your footing is to start with a plan.

2. Include your loyalty program

If you have a customer loyalty marketing program, incorporate it into your social media strategy.

The ideas outlined below can get you started. If you don't have a formal program, you can tweak these ideas to help build customer loyalty, in general. After all, social media is your chance to engage with your audience, and you can leverage that engagement by trying out tactics to see what works.

  • Promote your loyalty program on social channels, and make it easy for people to join the program via your social sites.
  • Reward members/customers for specific social actions. For instance, give points or perks (like a coupon) when they follow your brand on social networks, and when they like, share, or comment on your posts.
  • Reward ongoing engagement. For example, post exclusive deals for returning members/customers, and offer rewards when they share their story with your brand on social channels.
  • Communicate loyalty program updates and other news via social sites.
  • Consider giving loyal customers the inside scoop by inviting them to exclusive events.
  • Listen to your customers' social chat in real time so you can respond quickly to a complainer or "surprise and delight" a brand ambassador.
  • Give members/customers an opportunity to "share" the news when they earn a reward. Create a specific hashtag to monitor reward mentions, and be sure to thank members/customers for sharing.
  • Remind members/customers to check in at noteworthy store events, and offer extra perks when they do.
  • Allow members to periodically share "members only" discounts or other benefits with their social networks.
  • Sweeten the perks for your most connected members/customers when they tell their friends about you or refer a friend.

3. Create shareworthy social media posts

You've devised a social media strategy and created an editorial calendar, and you are staying active on all your channels. But if your content isn't generating interest among your followers—and attracting new ones—you may as well cancel your accounts.

Here are five tips for creating shareworthy posts:

  1. Make it helpful. Extend advice, present useful information, or solve a problem for your readers. People like to be seen as a resource for their friends, so they'll likely pass these posts along to their own networks.
  2. Make it timely. If you wait to comment on timely issues, your post will seem stale. Stay on top of trending topics in general, and make them relevant to your company or industry.
  3. Make it interactive. Polls, open-ended questions, and other opportunities to voice opinions allow customers to engage with your brand in a way that makes them feel important. Likewise, invite followers to submit pictures, videos, and stories about using your product/brand. Their followers will see these interactions and may in turn be inspired to interact.
  4. Make it visual. Facebook posts containing images attract more "likes," more comments, and more clickthroughs than text-only posts. And the more compelling your image, video, or infographic is, the more likely it is to be shared.
  5. Make it count. Publishing during traffic peaks, which vary by platform, increases the chance that your posts will be seen and shared.

Gain the Benefits

The significance of social media as a marketing vehicle doesn't appear to be diminishing. Creating a sound social media strategy and following the tips above can help ensure that you don't miss out on this prime opportunity to engage your customers one-to-one—and enjoy the rewards of doing so.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Sandra Gudat

Sandra Gudat leads Customer Communications Group Inc. (CCG), a full-service retail marketing agency. She guides CCG's clients using a strategic, data-driven approach to CRM and loyalty.

LinkedIn: Sandra Gudat