After studying JetBlue and Kilroy’s’ Twitter activity, I came up with some conclusions about how to effectively connect with consumers through social media.
1: Be Active, Not Just Out There – It’s important to address issues and be part of the conversation surrounding your company. As Eptica Olivier Njamfa said, establishing a presence but failing to engage with customers could backfire, leading to a spread of negative feedback and damage to the overall brand. If you want to reap the benefits of social media (the marketing, the consumer connections, etc.) you have to put in the time. This means interacting with consumers in a timely manner. As we saw with the ideology of openness, being on social media now means being reachable 24/7 and the conversation around your brand will go on whether you’re part of it or not.
2: Be Relevant – We saw how being relevant highly depends on your audience. Know your followers and what they have in common. You need to be sure what you’re tweeting about resonates with the majority of your audience. Peoples’ newsfeeds are already cluttered and you don’t want to waste your followers’ space with irrelevant information. If you’re a national company like JetBlue, focus on widely recognized happenings like holidays or big events. On top of that, make it your own. Don’t just say “Happy Spring.” Connect events with your company to make your message stand out among the rest. JetBlue did this by welcoming spring “with open wings.” If you’re a local company like Kilroy’s you can focus more on local events. Know the community you’re in and what’s important to them. Kilroy’s’ audience is mostly IU students and they make an effort to play into events that are important to them like IU basketball and Little 500.
3: Offer Something Different – Again, peoples’ newsfeeds are already cluttered, so if they’re going to add you to the mix you should offer them something they can’t get elsewhere. It could be exclusive deals, insider information or anything relevant to your brand and consumers. They can look at plane ticket prices or menu items elsewhere, but offering new information is a real reason to follow. As we saw, Kilroy’s offered their followers t-shirt and trivia hints, something they couldn’t get elsewhere. While it’s just a small piece of information, those trivia and t-shirt days are traditions of the Kilroy’s community and having “insider information” will excite loyal members.
4. Be Human – The Cluetrain Manifesto authors defined a human voice as direct, honest, open, natural and humorous. “Business language” is uninviting and boring. People don’t want to listen to a robot spitting advertisements at them. They want engaging, two-way conversation. Henry Jenkins says loyal consumers feel their support grants them a stakeholder position within the company and therefore they want their concerns heard and addressed. Speak to your followers in a way that positions them as participants, not recipients.
5: Reward with Retweets – If your followers are supporting you, support them back. It’s beneficial for both you and the person you’re retweeting: For you, it’s a free and easy way to self-promote and create a connection with a consumer. For them, it’s social capital. Companies often have more followers than the average individual user so being retweeted by a company means more exposure.
6: Use hashtags to build a community – In order to build a community around your brand, you need your followers not only to interact with you but also each other. Hashtags are the best way for consumers to find each other and by creating the hashtag yourself you can guide the conversation. Hashtags should be consistent so they catch on, unique so they don’t get lost in the sea of Twitter comments, and have a call to action so you have some influence over the point of the community. JetBlue utilizes the hashtag function by promoting “#JetBlueSoFly.” They encourage their users to share their travel photos and experiences with each other.
7: It is what it is – Though we saw a lot about consistently addressing consumer concerns, Twitter is limited as a help channel. There are few issues that can be adequately solved in 140 characters. Don’t try to make Twitter (or other social media) into something it’s not. However, don’t dismiss it either. It is still a useful tool for letting consumers know you’re ready and willing to help. When JetBlue’s followers pose a concern to them via Twitter they respond with what will be the most effective support channel.
After all of this you may still be wondering: why? Why should you connect with consumers? Does it really make a difference? My boss at a local ice cream shop once told me it was especially important to always be friendly to customers because “a friendly interaction can make up for bad food, but good food can’t make up for bad customer service.” If you’re nice and make the customer’s experience an overall good one, they’ll want to come back. However, no one wants to go to a place where they feel unwelcomed. It’s the same idea as friendship: if a friend makes you mad, you’ll probably forgive them. If a random stranger upsets you, you’re less likely to forgive them because you have no previous connection. I think this same theory can apply to social media campaigns. Social media is an extension of customer service. Building that relationship with consumers can ensure brand loyalty.
Along with this, in their book Spreadable Media, Jenkins et al say that interacting with consumers on social media can increase the company’s economic value. They take from Eleanor Stribling’s four categories of valuable engagement, which include sharing, recommending and endorsing as valuable behaviors. Jenkins et al say, “In [consumers’] everyday activities, they contribute to the cultural value of media products by passing along content and making material valuable within their social networks.” The more people talk about something, the more others will seek it out as well. Therefore if companies promote interaction through the ways mentioned above, their followers’ friends will see them interacting with you and they too may check your business out.