There has been a great hype around social media and how businesses can benefit from them.
As with everything else, one needs to decide the purpose for which the business wants to use social media and how will it measure the impact on business. A few strategies that have worked well are:
- Social media sites as an additional sales channel: Providing specific deals for a specific period for customers who follow your posts on the social media sites (could be twitter, facebook, linkedIn or any other such sites). Dell has been highly successful in using twitter to get additional sales by creating offerings specifically tailored for its twitter followers. You can follow Dell Outlet @ http://twitter.com/#!/DellOutlet.
- As a marketing channel: Businesses can use these social media sites to get the word out on all the marketing efforts. These sites can serve as an alternate advertising medium for reaching out to customers. Businesses can inform their followers on socail media about various marketing activities. In this case, these social media websites become another option to reach out a specific target of people. Artists, especially musicians have been using social media sites to successfully market their concerts.
- For prospecting & business development: There is a wealth of information available on the social media sites about your prospects. Use these as tools to reach out to your prospects and start the business development process with them.
- As a tool for increased customer engagement and interactions: One of the most important use of social media that has become really popular and successful is to create customer fan pages and allow the customers to interact with each other over your product/service. Businesses can also use these to gather direct or indirect feedback (by tracking what is being said about your product/services) that can go as inputs to your product managers. Tata DoCoMo keeps searching for tweets mentioning them and reach out to customers who mention them (http://twitter.com/#!/tatadocomo)
- Brand building tool: Businesses can use these tools to build a brand image for themselves as a socially responsible business. For example SAP uses facebook to showcase activities that they do as part of their corporate social responsibility (http://www.facebook.com/pages/SAP-Corporate-Social-Responsibility/125855600791778).
One can employ multiple strategies to exploit the full potential of these tools. However, as in any case, this is just another medium to engage with your customers. So, all care should be taken to ensure that your customers do not get irritated with junk or spam.
Also, each activity that one does on social media should have a core purpose and also a pre-agreed KPI to measure the success of the activity.
Businesses that tend to benefit from these tools tend to understand that these are long term commitments and are serious about the usage.